Queer on film: A look at New York’s proudest community
A photo diary by photographer Andrew Tess takes a look at Pride through the lens – and hearts – of the city’s LGBTQIA+ community
By Andrew Tess
I started this project two years ago, in June 2019. At the time, it was based on hearing from one another in our queer community and what Pride means to them. It was the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and World Pride was in New York. So, when I did this project then, it was very much a milestone/ celebratory moment. This year, with the pandemic, I was interested in picking it back up, but was actually inspired by the 1967 Summer of Love to start sharing queer stories again.
Issa Mia Mario
'It doesn’t matter how or when, there’s a core to New York where everyone is accepted. That in itself is what makes Pride in New York so special'
The Summer of Love wasn’t just about going out; it was about having compassion and empathy for one another. I felt like the project was a great way for me to reflect that and for queer people to mirror their own sense of self (with each other), and what they learnt about themselves as queer people throughout COVID-19. Before we all move full speed ahead, I was hoping that the project could be a moment for everyone to pause and not forget to take care of oneself, our mental health, and each other.
The pandemic was so isolating that really the silver lining of this project was to make people feel less isolated. If it means hearing queer people sharing their honest truths, I thought it could be comforting for others to know they’re not alone in their struggles. The process of shooting Polaroids of so many queer New Yorkers taught me to continue to learn how to love and work on myself. As queer people, we’re told that we’re not enough. We’re taught by society to feel ‘less than’. I think it’s changing now for younger kids, but growing up I didn’t get that love and acceptance that, to this day, I (along with a lot of other queer people) are still yearning for.
It doesn’t matter how or when, there’s a core to New York where everyone is accepted. That in itself is what makes Pride in New York so special – it’s not just June, it’s a year-round thing where you can be proud of who you are, no matter who you are, at any given point in New York. The city is a looking glass of sorts of what’s to come.
I hope New York and this radical acceptance that exists here can continue to manifest elsewhere in the world.