Today is the vernissage of Montreal based photographer JJ Levine‘s solo exhibition “Queer Portraits” at RATS 9 Gallery, which will run until the 5th of November. The show will highlight images taken throughout the past two years, in which the artist continued documenting his queer environment by taking portraits of the people around him in their homes – something she’s already done since 2006. I’ve done a short interview with JJ, who also runs the hair salon Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone, to find out more about his work and the exhibition. All photos below courtesy JJ Levine.
How would you describe the approach you have with your portait works? What do you want to contribute to?
I only photograph people with whom I have close relationships, so my approach is a very personal one. I want to contribute to a visual culture of identity-based image making.
Do you see yourself in a certain artistic tradition?
On a technical level, my portrait photography is quite traditional; my approach to the medium is one of precision and care. All of my work is shot on film and I normally print using an enlarger in a colour darkroom. However, my subject matter is far from conventional.
How do you chose your models and what are your criteria to ask someone if he wants to be photographed?
I photograph the people around me: my friends, siblings, and lovers. And I normally approach them when I have an idea for a photograph or when I feel inspired by their domestic space. I’m lucky that my friends are such patient and cooperative subjects!
What made you decide to shoot most portraits in people’s homes and not in other places of their every-day live?
I think the home – specifically the queer home – raises question about privacy and intimacy. I’m interested in exploring the ways in which aesthetics come together through the meaningful objects with which we surround ourselves. The public sphere can be alienating and unwelcoming for those of us whose genders and sexualities are marginalized. Conversely, the home often represents safety and shelter from these forms of violence, making them a place of comfort and tenderness.
Tell me a little bit about your solo exhibition.
The show is an exhibit of my newest Queer Portraits. “Queer Portraits” is an ongoing series of staged studio portraits of my friends and lovers in their own domestic spaces. I started this project in 2006 and have been shooting consistently for the past six years. Selections of my 2012 Queer Portraits have been exhibited in Toronto and in the United Kingdom recently and published in several magazines and journals internationally, however this will be my first large exhibition in Montreal. Most of the portraits that I’ showing are from the last eight months of my art practice, and many of these recent works have not been exhibited anywhere before.
The vernissage of “Queer Portraits” will take place tonight (Friday October 19th) from 6-11pm at RATS 9 Gallery on the 5th floor of the Belgo building, 372 Ste Catherine St west, suite 530. The exhibition runs October 17th to November 5th 2012, the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday 12pm-6pm. More of JJ Levine’s work on his website http://jjlevine.ca.