Sophia Carter catches up with Ashley Kolodner to talk about her long standing LGBT+ project GAYFACE, life and the future.
New York is calling and it’s telling us to listen up. Through the eye of a lens one photographer gives us her unique response to LGBT+ culture. Using portraiture photography, a personal and empowering subject is presented to us with the mind to alter perspectives of the viewer. This project has come to life by giving a platform to subjects to share their experiences of LGBT+ issues, communities and allies.
GAYFACE ‘unites and empowers the LGBTQ community and our allies, bringing us access to a first class existence after decades in the dark’.
GAYFACE which was created by New York artist Ashley Kolodner is a collection of fine photography works showing her response to queer rights and the sidelining of such issues by American culture.
In Kolodner’s world nothing is black and white, and sexuality is not something that can be easily defined. This concept is portrayed by the vast number of models used, ensuring that every person who may or may not identify with a particular label is shown to the world. By breaking some of the barriers that the LGBT+ is detrimental to societal norms, it gives a clear voice that says we are here, and we are here to stay.
The GAYFACE collection is to be shown in book projects, street art exhibits and gallery exhibitions. This project will also be projected onto buildings and landmarks, and will show the true face of the LGBT+ movement, especially as we enter a new year of fresh issues for the LGBT+ community.
Kolodner is continuing her tour of America to photograph individuals within the LGBT+ community. The impact that GAYFACE has made has already contributed greatly to the self-identity and empowerment of these individuals, producing a massive support system. Kolodner hopes to continue in unifying others for her movement in a celebration of sex, culture and identity.
GAYFACE explained – a step by step guide
Each subject is photographed with their eyes closed and open. The images are to be viewed side by side, creating a powerful juxtaposition. This gives the viewer a sense of the subjects vulnerability.
Once the photographs have been taken, each subject has the option to participate in a short interview stating their name, their identifiable label of choosing, and any part of their journey they would like to share.
Now of course this incredible project wouldn’t have come about unless Ashley Kolodner had given her talent to GAYFACE and made it a reality that has truly helped to change perspectives on the LGBT+ community. So Vada Magazine caught up with Kolodner to find out a bit more about what gave her the idea for GAYFACE.
So tell us a little bit about yourself, what have you achieved so far with your photography?
My childhood was spent in Washington, DC and I grew up with learning disabilities. With that came a love for art – it was something that I was good at. From as young as I can remember I was always up to something creative. One day I picked up my mother’s camera, discovered the process and the results got me hooked.
My time is taken up with GAYFACE, but I also model for BOSS and continue to work as a photographer professionally. So far I have photographed the likes of Nas, Damien Marley, Mayer Hawthorne, and Nipsy Hustle, among others. My work has been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers, galleries and shows, including Toronto Fashion Week and New York City Fashion Week. I was also featured in Photographer’s Forum’s Best of Photography 2011, amongst many other high profile magazines.
How has your experience been coming out to family and those around you?
When I was in sixth grade I realised that I had feelings towards other women. I was fully aware that this didn’t ‘conform with social norms’ and this was incredibly hard for me. It was something I couldn’t shake off, and it caused me to go into a deep depression.
When I finally had a relationship with another girl I felt a huge burden lift. Finally, I had found someone who understood what I was going through. This gave me the courage to come out to my family.
The response was not at all how I expected. Simply put, they already knew. They weren’t fazed in the least!
In fact, I came to understand the whole time I’d been growing up, my auntie was gay and I hadn’t even known.
Was there a particular time that being ‘gay’ has come with a negative response?
Of course there have been situations where I have been met with physical altercations and verbal abuse, however you have to understand that there will be people who will always have a problem with something or other. The most important lesson is that you learn how to deal with it in the best way.
Where did the inspiration for GAYFACE come from?
As both a lesbian and an artist I wanted to showcase the many voices and faces of the community. We deserve the same rights as everyone else all over the world, no matter what our ‘labels’ are. I feel that the symbolism of the eyes open and closed demonstrates this. I’ve found that when our eyes are finally opened, and all stereotypes and negative feelings are discarded, we see things in a whole new light, and perhaps in a brand new way.
What is it that you hope to achieve with GAYFACE and why?
I want to touch people’s lives and change perspectives. I would hope that someone who looks upon the project might see someone that looks familiar and realise that sexuality doesn’t fit in a box. GAYFACE will evoke empathy and understanding; it is a way to see each other as equal.
How long have you been working on GAYFACE and where do you want to take it next?
I shot my first two photographs in 2009, but didn’t really start pursuing and developing the project until 2012. I will continue to tour around America, but eventually I would like to travel globally with GAYFACE.
Is there an ultimate goal that you want achieve with GAYFACE or in your own personal life?
To continue collecting stories of the lives of this wonderfully diverse community all around the globe, as well as continuing my artwork professionally.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I wish I knew, but I can only dream! I would hope however that GAYFACE will have continued to grow and I’ll constantly developing as an artist.
Sum up your meaning of life?
Success is how many lives you touch.
A message for young LGBT+ adults today?
For every individual there is a different message – however, if there is one message to give, I believe that no matter the personal struggles and demons that we go through, regardless of identity or labels, you need to learn to love yourself for who you are. If you can take the time to discover this, then you must reach out and help others.