The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.
Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them.
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What’s your name?
Where are you based currently?
On occupied Lenape and Canarsie lands aka Brooklyn, NY.
Describe who you are and what you do.
I am a queer femme artist and dissident, the proud daughter of two Ecuadorian immigrants who came to Bushwick in the mid-eighties. Difficult life circumstances moved me between New York and Ecuador for most of my youth. My photography and politics are closely intertwined. The reason I even began to shoot film was because an uncle gave me a camera during the Forajidos uprisings in Ecuador in 2005. The first images I ever shot were of protests and I haven’t stopped since.
For a living, I work as a youth counselor for unhoused LGBTQ youth and as a Spanish interpreter/translator for a legal organization dedicated to Trans rights. While I’m passionate about the populations I serve, I hope to leave the non-profit industrial complex someday and share these skills, including those in film photography, more directly and sustainably with all who want them.
Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.
I’m proud of teaching myself how to develop black and white film at home. When I graduated from Brooklyn College in 2015, I was immediately so depressed about losing darkroom access. Film photography is already so expensive, I saw no viable way of getting a studio membership. I was sad but also indignant that only people within formal institutions can access film photography. (I’m allergic to gatekeeping.) So I combined what knowledge I had, did some Youtube research, bought some basic materials on a credit card, and I figured out how to continue my photo practice at home.
I’ve been doing this for the last 4 years and it’s just the best thing ever! I can’t make film prints at home (yet), so I really miss that aspect of a formal darkroom, but I want to keep expanding my knowledge so I can share it with others. My big dream is to have a darkroom collective that is sliding scale, the way the old ABC No Rio used to be — accessible film photography for The People.
Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?
I love Riis Beach so much; it’s one of my favorite places to be. I’m also enjoying Zoom queer dance parties way more than I expected, and plan to dance and celebrate as much as I protest this month!
What’s been top of mind for you lately?
The abolition of all police, immigration, military, and prison systems. Reparations for Black folks and Indigenous sovereignty up and down the hemisphere. Working with a small group of non-black, Latinx-identified folks around our internalized anti-Blackness, holding space for each other as we unlearn/relearn. Dreaming of beautiful possibilities of liberation for the places I call home, no bosses, no masters, no landlords, no borders. I also can’t stop fantasizing about forming a wheat pasting night crew :)
Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)
I keep a small circle of friends and chosen family that I consider my immediate community and support system. I’ve been calling myself a “feral” leftist for a few years now, I had some crappy experiences in organizing that forced me to work on my health and values.
I still don’t have an affiliation to any group, but follow and uplift the work of many: Decolonize This Place, Why Accountability, Take Back The Bronx, G.L.I.T.S., For The Gworls, The Okra Project, Movement For Black Lives, BAJI, Equality 4 Flatbush, Swipe It Forward, Within Our Lifetime, Outlive Them NYC, Border Kindness, Mayday Space, NYC Shut It Down, Free CUNY, No New Jails NYC, Club A NYC, all mutual aid and bail-out groups that have formed past and present, almost too many amazing folks to name! And a special shout out to Casa de Las Muñecas in Ecuador and No Tengo Miedo in Peru.
How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?
Supporting street actions every chance I get while being honest about my capacity and health. Trying to allocate my resources to individuals or to bigger projects that serve many people whenever possible. Pride has always been revolutionary to me, so this year feels extra special.
Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?
Yes, give us unlimited access to resources and spaces to showcase our work. Center the leadership and work of Black and Indigenous artists and curators.
In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?
I hope we carry these pandemic lessons of solidarity, mutual aid, (increased, though could be better) accessibility, and redistribution of resources. I hope we continue to expand on this response to the crisis until it flourishes into abundance and sustainability! I’ve watched many people around me become radicalized by this intensely terrible and yet amazing moment in our lifetime, and that fills me with hope.
What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?
Smooch all my friends.
Enjoying this series? Check out other entries here.