Exploring Notions of Queerness with Authority Collective at Photoville LA

Exploring Notions of Queerness with Authority Collective at Photoville LA

This year, United Photo Industries’ beloved Photoville festival expanded to the west coast. Between April 26th and May 5th over 28,000 photography enthusiasts flocked to the makeshift photo village in Century Park for Photoville LA, presented by the Annenberg Space for Photography, to view container and outdoor exhibits from artists of all backgrounds and specialties.

One container exhibit, Parallax, was created by Authority Collective, a group of womxn, femmes, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people of color whose collective mission is to reclaim their authority in the photography, film and VR/AR industries. Curated by Mengwen Cao & Tara Pixley, the show explores one question: what is “queer?”

About the show —  

What is queer? What experiences and bodies are obscured by certain notions of queerness writ large in the cultural imagination?

To “queer” has gradually become an academic catchphrase, a call-to-arms and an intervention intended to destabilize normalcy. “Queer” is many things to many people across various contexts. As such, the queer lived experience is beyond blurred. It now signals intersections of gender, sexuality, race, (dis)ability and various other modes of being. Yet, certain racial and gendered embodiments have achieved their own level of “normalcy,” rewriting what LGBTQIA is in their own image, adjusting the social lens to keep themselves primarily in focus.

A parallax is the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions. By portraying individuals who occupy the intersection of queer embodiment and blackness/brownness, who defy the accepted binaries of gender and sexuality, these portraits provide a rare, alternate view of the contemporary queer experience.

The exhibit featured portraits of queer people of color in both photo and video by:

Mengwen Cao

Naima Green

Melinda James

Nancy M. Musunguzi

Tara Pixley

Charmaine Poh

Gabriel Garcia Roman

Tia Thompson

Ka-Man Tse

Brian Vu

Justin J. Wee

Elizabeth Wirijaa

Salgu Wissmath

PhotoShelter proudly supports Authority Collective’s mission and sponsored the show to help offset printing costs. I caught up with Tara Pixley last week after the completion of Photoville LA and she reported the show was a big hit with visitors. A few of the artists also gave talks about their work. After the success of Parallax at Photoville LA, Authority Collective’s goal is to turn the show into a much larger exhibit that would ideally travel both nationally and internationally. Pixley also noted how important it is to Authority Collective to access communities that might not have a well-known queer population with the aim of creating much-needed space for conversations centered around LGBTQIA identities.

Remember that Photoville NYC will be happening this fall too, from September 12th to 22nd in Brooklyn Bridge Park. An exhibit list is not yet available, but the event is definitely worth keeping on your radar. Plus, it’s free to the public!

Interested in learning more about collectives? Check out one of our latest Vision Slightly Blurred episodes all about them.

Cover image by Charmaine Poh.

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Caitlyn Edwards is the Senior Customer Marketing Manager at PhotoShelter. Passionate about visual storytelling and ethics, she covers photo news, events and offers educational tips.

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