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Young LGBT+ photographers share their vision of our community

Young LGBT+ photographers share their vision of our community

  • Round Hole Square Peg aims to take queer photography to the mainstream.
Alex By The Sea

The Round Hole Square Peg 4 exhibition aims to take queer photography into the mainstream – and to showcase our diversity.

We asked Phil Tarley, director to guide us through the exhibition.

An international take on LGBT+ visibility

What is Round Hole Square Peg all about?

We started Round Hole Square Peg in 2013 and stage it every two years. That way we get a new crop of emerging queer photographers to present the fresh vision in our community which is always changing, always evolving in surprising ways. We must be our true authentic selves.

Meanwhile, our booth at Photo LA continues to be the only queer booth in any of the mainstream art fairs in North America, maybe the world.

In these Trumpian, homophobic times, we have to boldly show the full range of LGBTQ art at important, international fairs so we don’t become invisible and forgotten. 

There are two sections of the exhibition. The first is The Competition, where we had over 160 images submitted from eight countries.

There were some wonderful, exciting submissions. All different kinds of photographs and a few photo-collages were sent in from an assortment of wild and diverse international LGBTQ cultures.

I especially wanted to discover a new vision from people of color, trans, and gender-fluid communities. Many of them are young, coming up LGBTQ photographers – emerging artists.

Austin Young 19
Austin Young 19 Austin Young

The judges found many works that came from the queer diaspora, the international LGBTQ culture. From a kind of Jungian, queer unconscious society, a secret club with similar wants, needs and obsessions.

The second part of the exhibition is The Wall of Fame, which I curated along with Ruben Eparza. These (fag-U-lous) works are from established LGBTQ photographers, many artists I collect.

Two standouts are Mei Xian Qiu, and her photographic fantasy, The Lovers, and artist BlackManWhiteBaby and his dreamy self-portrait, We Are One. I am also savoring a whimsical work by Karen Bystedt and Bobby Brown called Late Night CBrown. 

The Lovers
The Lovers. Mei Xian Qiu


Black Man White Baby Self Portrait
Black Man White Baby Self Portrait, We Are One Black Man White Baby


Late Night CBROWN
Late Night CBROWN Karen Bystedt and Bobby Brown

Seeking off-beat work

What kind of representation did you get and what kinds of photographers were involved?

We got a massive range of submissions from people who identify quite differently, from what you think. And we are showing a few ‘normal’ Jane and Joe photos.

We also got some fetish photos that were bizarrely interesting, like, ‘Oh I didn’t know you could actually do that.’ They were shocking, some gross, but they were badly lit or not well shot, so they did not make the cut.

Phil St. John 2020
Phil St. John 2020 Phil St. John

Of course, LGBTQ people are pigeon-hold into common stereotypes like muscle guy or drag queens, and we include a few. But we wanted the exhibition to be more diverse, and we wanted to include off-beat work.

I confess, we got lots of great portraiture, which I love. I would have liked to see a bit of tabletop or abstract work, but no one entered them, everyone sent faces.

People often see the LGBT+ community narrowly or stereotypically. What can we do to improve the diversity of representation?

Of course, LGBTQ people are pigeon-holed into common stereotypes.

We have to look for new icons, the offbeat, and to people of color and those gender-fluid. They have fresh perspectives and an indelible presence and visuality.

Photo By Austin Young 2020
Photo By Austin Young 2020. Austin Young

Round Hole Square Peg 4 will debut at PHOTO LA 2020 from 30 January to 2 February, in Barker Hanger Santa Monica Airport. It then moves to the City of West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, Long Hall Gallery from 8 February to 4 March.