Happy Monday, my beauties! Its me, Robin, your resident photoblogger, here to enchant you with a delightful gaze into some iconic imagery of our lesbionic history.
See;when I was in college I did this photo project on relationships — I wanted to spend a couple of hours with several different couples, gay and straight, and photograph them interacting with each other (eating dinner, watching TV, kissing in bed, etc.) with two major intentions: the first was to observe the relationship between the couple both in reality and as it was perceived by others viewing the images. The second was that I was exploring my own sexuality at the time and I wanted to explore the relationships around me. I wanted to feel the genuine connection between two women in love and, more importantly, how I’d react to it. I also wanted to gauge the reactions of others. Maybe it was a little creepy, but it gave me a lot of insight into the meaning and importance of visually representing gay life.
Although my college professor voted “Heterosexuals Have No Fun” for the project’s title, I chose “Form and Function.” And as I got into it, I felt my emotional interaction with and reaction to these couples become as important to me as my relationship to the images themselves — the couple in front of the lens. On the surface it was a simple project about relationships but it became a way or me to explore and come to peace with my own thoughts and feelings.
The best photographs are powerful visual tools that provide an opportunity for introspection and interaction with the world, and that project really brought it home for me. And while it’s always been difficult to find lesbian imagery in mainstream media, there have been many instances when a lez-centric image has successfuly auto-straddled the line between queer culture and pop culture.
So I’ve gathered up some of the Most Influential and Iconic Lesbian Photographs of All Time; photographs that have played a major role in bringing queer women visibility. Some are lesbian-themed, some are taken by actual lady-gays, and some have just helped contribute to the GQBLT movement as a whole. While each has a unique intent & purpose and they’ve all been executed very differently, they’ve all done something powerful for our community.
Tanya Chalkin: The Kiss
I went to college from 1999-2003 and every frat boy and gay girl I knew had that one poster. It’s called “The Kiss” and although there are probably 500 other photographs with the same name, you know which one I mean. Seems cheesy to bring a Posters.com Top Sellers into this list, but this photo resonates: it’s the only lesbian imagery I ever saw in a boy’s room that wasn’t of plastic porn stars.
There’s something beautiful in this image’s simplicity though I’m not really a fan of her other “lesbians in bed” shots. A bit too contrived & glossy for me.
Mario Tama – (Getty Images, for The New York Times)
60 years after Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic Times Square war-time kiss photo, this 2005 picture is important to the GLBT community for its inclusion of Tim Tompkins and his boyfriend Nathan kissing. They also make their own statement as gay “sailors” against that silly outdated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Tomkins sent e-mails to several gay groups asking them to come to the annual reenactment and has since organized a yearly Times Square New Year’s party. It makes you wonder … are these fellows actual sailors, or did they just pick up their hats from a West Village Halloween store?
DIVA magazine cover that got censored
Paying homage to the Annie Leboiwitz photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Diva Magazine, Europe leading lesbian rag, had to release a more subdued version of their initial shot after being censored the first time. Meanwhile Maxim can peddle soft porn-ish images of people like Megan Fox, but we can’t show skin in a lesbionic context.
Lara Porzak – Ellen and Portia’s wedding
I’m a wedding photographer so, of course, I have to point out the most iconic lesbo wedding photograph. This one goes out to Portia de Rossi and Ellen Degeneres (who rocked Zac Posen designed outfits at their wedding… sorry LL Bean Weddings.com). This one graced the cover of People magazine and will forever symbolize the first victory over Prop 8 and the first time a loving lesbian couple was brought warmly into the homes of Americans everywhere. Quietly and with beauty, the images of this wedding probably did more to advance the cause than any other singular event.
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brilliant and awesome as always, ms. roemer! every lez i knew in college had ‘the kiss’ hanging on their wall!
my favorite part about the abundance of ‘the kiss’ posters in college is that everyone who owned it thought they were incredibly original and found some sort of hot holy grail.
Totally. It’ll be a lesbian collector’s item in like 30 years though. So ladies, hold on to that poster!
I actually went to the Catherine Opie exhibition at the Guggenheim (last fall) before I knew anything about her (I’m still a kid, don’t judge).
Some of the images stayed on my mind for a long time. She doesn’t exploit her objects, as some photographers do, and that alone creates something beautiful.
Do you have a favorite? Her work is really powerful I think.
Well I stared at this picture for a good 15-20 mins without realizing. After my friend awkwardly made me disentangle my mind from it.
It is just my favorite image depicting a lesbian family. Pain of carving it into society, reflected by the literal carving in her back. It’s excruciating. Every part, theme ,composition, is excruciating, I love that. I look at this and i taste copper in my mouth.
I don’t really have one single favourite, but I love her portraits (not the close-ups, but this series: http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/blogon/upload/2008/10/Opie_Frankie.jpg http://asset3.flavorpill.com/attachment_image_files/0016/8619/justinbond_sml_large.jpg
I really enjoyed this piece.
This piece is a perfect example of why this is such a wonderful website. Intelligent women talking about things they’re passionate about. Whether its Robin on photography or Riese on books or Carly on nerd stuff etcetera etcetera. It makes me want to take a picture of myself reading an e-book on an iphone and then take those pictures and make some sort of collage that Laneia would enjoy. Keep up the great work!
Agreed. Any time you get people talking intelligently about something that gets them excited, that excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. It makes you feel something.
This post is a great example of that. As is the entire website. I think it’s what the team is going for, and they’re doing it really well.
You guys make us really happy!!! I’m glad you like it!! I can only speak in exclamation points, that’s how hard I’m smiling.
Yay Robin! I love this piece too.
Its what I love about Autostraddle too! Thanks for helping support it and getting the word out!
how did your own photo project turn out?
Really well, thanks! I should have posted some of those come to think of it. I made a huge grid, prints were 36×36, for our big senior art show which we did in an empty space in downtown Ithaca, NY. So fun.
love this post and how you can tell your story as it relates to the bigger community of women before and behind cameras. thank you!
postscript: would love to see your photos from that project!
This is probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever read on Autostraddle. Lovely!
Glad you enjoyed it! :)
this is great. oh the kiss. srsly I see it all over the place when I visit friends living in the dorms at university, most of them convinced that it is a picture of tatu.
That’s really funny. But it looks nothing like them!
Also… I’m glad its STILL the poster of choice for lesbians. I graduated college 6 years ago! I do love that image though.
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