Family is a word that resonates with the LGBTQ community more than most. We don’t always fit the ones we’re biologically stitched into and, unpicking the seams, we often go on to tailor-make our own, choosing the people we want to be surrounded by, to laugh, cry and argue with, to lean on when we need support.
These brothers and sisters may not be flesh and blood, but that’s just a technicality because these rainbow-wrapped bonds dive far deeper than DNA.
The idea that family isn’t necessarily something you’re born into, but a cluster of connections you forge for yourself is the beating heart of a new pop-up exhibition curated by Levi’s® and Queer Britain, a charity looking to launch the UK’s first national LGBTQ museum — a physical space for current and future generations to find out about and explore their culture.
Images by Robert Taylor
Titled Chosen Family, the showcase, which runs between 25 June and 1 July, joined forces with four forward-thinking photographers: half-Indian, half-Italian Alia Romagnoli, Londoner Bex Day, Polish-born Kuba Ryniewicz and renowned British portraitist Robert Taylor.
Each of them holds a mirror to the uniqueness of the queer experience as they capture the lives of their particular LGBTQ family.
Opening the week before Pride in London — at 9 Mercer Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9QJ — the timing couldn’t be better.
“One of the strengths of the queer community is that we’ve always, for one reason or another, constructed our own families, and this is a diverse celebration of that,” says Joseph Galliano, Queer Britain’s co-founder and chief executive.
The collaboration with Levi’s, a three-year partnership, was made to measure too.
“They have a fantastic track record, going right back, of working towards inclusion, and they put their muscle where their mouth is. Rather than slapping a badge on to something when it’s already successful, they actually roll their sleeves up and get involved.
“Also, I was brought up in 501s,” Joseph adds with a laugh.
Given a peek behind the curtain of the exhibition, Attitude caught up with Robert Taylor, who has decided to train his camera on four of his oldest friends, namely Bill, Lorne, David and Kenny.
“There is quite an age range – the oldest is mid-seventies and the youngest is mid- forties,” the former lawyer explains. “They’ve had varying degrees of romantic involvement over the years, but now they’re a family.
"Sometimes they even take on the label of sister, brother and father.
“They are a remarkable set of men and I’ve seen them help each other through all sorts of crises.”
As for how he wants us to feel when we see his portraits, Robert briefly pauses to consider his response.
“I remember the grimmest times, when HIV/Aids emerged, Section 28... a bunch of difficulties around being out and queer, when we were under such pressure, and we really did have to take care of each other,” he recalls.
“The message should be one of celebrating our capacity to flourish, support each other and get through life together.”
Each photograph from the exhibition will be donated to Queer Britain’s ever-growing archive in its mission to protect, preserve and present LGBTQ histories.
Levi’s is supporting Queer Britain in their aim to establish the UK’s first LGBTQ museum. Visit queerbritain.org.uk for more details.