New Perspectives: Sudbury’s We Are… Photo Exhibit
You may have noticed a wonderful photo exhibit at Kuppajo Espresso Bar entitled We Are…, which highlights LGBTQ+ community members and allies, and shows the importance of the pride movement within Greater Sudbury. We talked to Aédan Charest, the artist behind the photo series, to find out more!
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the We Are… photo series? Who is featured, and what is the message or goal of the project?
There are so many sources of inspiration behind this project but one of the major inspirations was Sudbury itself. What I have observed from this city is that it has my back as an emerging artist, as a queer person, and as an activist. This year especially, Sudbury has proven this by the amount of support it has shown for our Queer community during the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Vigil, the emerging QueerNorth Film Festival, our Pride festival, and recently how our community came together for Trans Day of Remembrance 2016. This told me a lot about our values as a community and so I knew that I would get the support and participation I needed to make this project a reality and continue doing so. I have witnessed time and time again our local businesses, artists, activists, social services and community organizations all come together to help one another.
Another inspiration behind this project, however, is not so positive. Although Canada has recently been making great leaps in regards of equal rights and protection laws for Queer people, our Southern neighbor, the United States, seems to actually be falling behind. In the past two years, transgender people especially have been a target for discriminatory laws and practices from restrictive public washroom laws to even having some schools wanting to have their transgender students be made to wear identification pieces much like Jewish people and queer people were made to wear during the second world war. As someone who was raised with queer being normalized (also having a queer relative on every branch of our family tree) and now having a job where I can easily find five other queer people working on the same street as my office and most of the local businesses being openly queer friendly, it baffles my mind that only south from us, in 2016/17 there is such hate and discrimination being tolerated against what could be your nurse, your barista, sales person, teacher, local business owners, who help drive the economy, against HUMAN BEINGS! So this inspired the project’s title We Are… where queer people and their allies can show who they are and how they contribute to the community, saying “WE ARE your community” thus showing that in the end, any hate or discrimination tolerated towards the queer people can actually be detrimental to us all.
In this project, you will see people featured who may or may not be familiar to you. From city officials and members of our police force, to perhaps a close friend, or even the person you may come across sitting at the coffee shop every day on your way to work, I wanted this project to highlight who we are first instead of focusing solely on our queer/ally identity because at the end of the day, that’s what actually matters when getting to know someone.
Each image is overlaid with a quote from the featured individual in the photo, and paint is often used in each image. Can you tell us more about the meaning of this aesthetic?
As an emerging artist and having found my voice as an activist, I wanted this project to also be a platform to give a voice for the queer population to speak out; that WE ARE the voices of Sudbury, of the North. I wanted the viewers to get to know who their community is and the diversity it is composed of.
And about the paint! I wanted a consistent element in the project but also wanted something to represent the “true colors” that we refuse to hide and be ashamed of. So, the paint became a statement element representing this idea. I originally thought of using glitter, but I have gained a bad reputation in our local queer community regarding it. People have reason to not trust me with it, as I tend to be very irresponsible and get carried away.
We had the chance to check out We Are… at Kuppajo Espresso Bar. Is the photo series still currently on display in Greater Sudbury?
It is! And I have to say that Kuppajo has been an amazing ally and venue! They proudly support the message behind the project and wanted the best for it. I hope the project can continue to be featured in local businesses/establishments and events.
Do you have plans to expand We Are… or create any new exhibits or art installations this year?
Yes! I currently have 10 more pieces to frame from this first generation of the project. I hope to start taking more photos in the spring, as there were many other people that weren’t able to participate at the time it began. My goal is to actually expand the project across Northern Ontario, helping our communities to not only know each other but also connect.
Is there a way for us to stay in touch with you or check out more of your work?
I’m currently looking into obtaining an official website but until then, you can check out my Facebook page Breaking Binaries Art where you can catch news and sneak peaks of upcoming works. If you enjoy reading on subjects such as the queer community, mental health, body positivity, and other humanitarian issues, you can check out my blog on WordPress that I have recently started.
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