Queer Friends photo series ‘reaffirms how beautifully diverse our community is’

Two best friends have created a series of queer portraits using just two rules: no retouching and no unnatural lighting.

From a teacher to a HIV specialist nurse, Queer Friends captures a variety of LGBTQ people either in the nude or in outfits entirely chosen by the models.

“They could bring stuff they wanted to wear, or chose not to wear anything at all,” photographer James Barnett explained to PinkNews.

“We tried not to make it too prescribed – they could come to our houses, or we could go to theirs.

“We were quite up front about the strict rules of the project: No retouching, no lighting. Just us, them and the camera.

“This meant each shoot was quite an intimate experience, but we consciously tried to make our subjects feel as relaxed as possible.”

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Using only film and disposable cameras, Barnett created the photo series alongside photographer Poppy French.

After working together for over 10 years as the STUDIOGRABDOWN collective, they decided to use photography as a way of better getting to know their queer community.

“Initially, one of our aims was to meet people in real life that previously, we had only ever had digital relationships with,” Barnett explained.

“We’ve always photographed each other, and our nearest and dearest, but venturing into photographing people we’ve never met before was both new and slightly daunting.

“Whilst we didn’t have a prescribed criteria for our subjects, we consciously shot subjects from across the queer community.

“Viewed as whole, these portraits reaffirm how beautifully diverse our community actually is.

“We also enjoyed pushing and queering our expectations of our own gender, and the limitations which comes from gender conformity.”

Queer Friends will also raise money for London’s LGBTQ Community Centre.

The series features androgynous British-Chinese artist Le Fil, who recently released his EP, Nightlife.


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“There was always a sense of shared joy between us and our subjects during the shoots, which sometimes led to these people discovering new things about themselves,” Barnett added.

“At the end of the day, is there anything more lovely than having a really great picture of yourself?”

Queer Friends will go on display at Dalston Superstore in London from May 10 until mid-July.