This Pride month and year-round, 500px celebrates a vibrant community of people. At 500px we believe everyone deserves respect, and equality is part of our mission.
Many people consider Pride a celebration, welcoming anyone and everyone regardless of politics or employment. For others, pride is a movement and a protest against the structures that have failed and continue to fail LGBTQ+ people. Particularly trans people and people of color.
This June we want to take a moment to recognize several 500px contributors who work toward increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ community and who create with Pride.
Aleksandra Lemke is a Polish-born professional photographer from Vantaa, Finland. People, clothes, places, and natural light serve as the sources of her inspiration.
Project: About Us
About Us promotes the importance of an intersectional approach to anti-racism. It also promotes good relations between population groups. It challenges both ethnic and LGBTIQA+ minorities to reflect on diversity within their communities. Encouraging the wider public to discuss discrimination against minorities. Therefore there is more awareness around the effects of discrimination. In addition, the project promotes the dismantling of confrontations – people can have a wide range of identities and equality should be a goal, regardless of anyone’s background.
Jay is similar to a breath of fresh air, and capturing this shot was an experience of joy. Jay was the definition of freedom.
The dress they wore was a secondhand find in Poland, that turned out to be a French designer wedding dress. Jay became the perfect “face of the project” in the hand-painted dress, spreading positive energy around and displaying the symbols of pride on her white dress.
This image captures how we need people like Jay, instead of the negativity that can sometimes surround the LGBTQ+ community and other sensitive topics of racism or discrimination.
Aleksandra had to make the difficult decision of who to work with, the key to her choice was choosing models with a message to share. Showing real people with real problems from very different backgrounds.
The final project consisted of people from many countries. All members of the rainbow community and people of color. This allowed the work to be raw and natural.
Her models were everyday people, that you easily pass on the street. Once she knew their personalities Aleksandra worked this into her directions. Encouraging the couples that were on board with PDA to kiss and touch, or shyer models to turn away from the camera.
Inna Mosina is a female feminist photographer from Russia that has been a practicing photographer for six years. The power of women and the creation of freedom, equality, and an inclusive world is the main theme and inspiration in her art.
Project: The Birth of Russian Venus
This work explores the struggle of becoming oneself. That is to say when held back by the shackles of a society your true identity can still fight to be seen.
Inna describes her photography as personal and frank, it is a method of sharing messages that ordinary words would not allow. Her images become a vehicle of communication, transferring powerful messages from the photographer to strangers. Her imagery resonates with others and provides her with a sense of companionship and security, making life less lonely an experience.
She uses the cold environment as a metaphor for the way people can have a nature of indifference and severity.
The motive of shackles is present in Inna’s work. Referencing how at any time she could face backlash for a photo with a rainbow flag.
Viktor Makhnov is a self-taught photographer who grew up in the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine. For most of his life, he worked in areas far away from creating images. When he bought a digital camera back in early 2010, he discovered a real passion for photography.
Victor began shooting representatives of the local LGBT community in 2014. He volunteered as a photographer for local LGBT rights organizations and initiatives and took portraits of LGBT activists.
Projects: Public vs Private, AC/DC, Under Disguise
The landscape is constantly changing for LGBTQ photographers. Viktor has worked with the community for over five years, yet he has only recently openly come out as gay. The photographer explains that little has changed for him due to this; He has two categories of customers. Those that apply his services because they appreciate the quality of his work or are comfortable working with him. Other customers are afraid that working with him will ruin their reputation and public image. Sadly this community also includes businesses owned by LGBT+ people who are not ready to come out.
On the other hand, speaking about the general situation and attitude to LGBT+ people in Ukraine, it has changed for the better due to activities and actions of LGBT+ and human rights organizations. People see more LGBT+ people and they start understanding we are like them, we are the same, and there is nothing about us they have to be afraid of.
Viktor has a long record of volunteering for Pride Hub’s activities as a photographer. In response to the organization’s manager asking him to carry out a photo project on bisexuality, he posted an ad to invite potential models on the Hub’s Telegram channel and Instagram stories. An overwhelming number of people wished to take part. Viktor had to conduct a casting process as a result of all the interest in the work.
The project was crowdfunded. The shoots were done in a studio with a friendly and accommodating admin. They completed his ideas and then they experimented and had fun shooting, and some of these images even made the final project.
The project was presented in an online format at Pride Hub and his daughter Anna who is a graphic designer, provided computer graphics for the presentation.
This series focuses on how individuals have stayed in the closet due to safety concerns. It is intended to tell the audience that people hiding behind the masks are not dangerous to them and there is nothing to be afraid of. They are equal to them, they may be weak and strong, they have something to hide – just like all other people. This series is also important to the models involved because their participation in the project may become the very first step towards accepting themselves and their acceptance on the part of their families, friends, colleagues, and society in general.
Ashvini Sihra started to have an interest in photography during the initial years of her college experience. Joining the photography club gave her the chance to learn the fundamentals. Initially, she dipped her toes into all the genres, from landscape and street photography to portraiture. After a year of this experimentation and play with photography she knew that portraiture was what she gravitated to. And in 2018 she bought her first camera and helped capture her cousin’s wedding and landed some freelance work, she hasn’t stopped capturing the moment and essence of people since.
Ashvini’s series covering the local transgender community in India is beautiful, working with soft gestures that suggest the subject letting the viewer see their vulnerability. She was inspired by the Commercial Grant quest on 500px, Breaking the Mold, and knew that she wanted to show something that looks authentic and shows the true soul of the LGBTQ+ community, and through various connections, she was able to get in touch with models to make the shoot come to life.
Using a room in her house when there were no lockdown restrictions at the time, she used whatever she could to create the scene for this series, and her sister helped with the makeup and styling. Ashvini aimed to show the feminine and fragile side of her model by using soft colors for clothing and minimal flowers collected from her yard. The makeup was directed by the model. The directions were kept simple and natural to make it easy for her model, who was not a professional.
The work is meant to communicate a sense of beauty regardless of how the person presents themselves, be it feminine, masculine, both, or neither.
Ashvini finds that the element of being able to break the barrier between what a person should dress like or what color would suit them exciting. There was a freedom in styling and posing when working with the LGBTQ community.
Edyta Pawlowska lives in Warsaw, Poland. Photography is her passion and has also become her full-time job. It gives her the possibility to realize her creative ideas and at the same time gives her the freedom to live the way she wants.
Project: Rainbow Love
Edyta finds joy in taking photos of happy people in their natural environments. She looks for models on social media, through friends, and sometimes will approach a person who caught her eye on the street. However, it’s the people that stand out from the crowd and aren’t afraid to be colorful that Edyta enjoys capturing the most. Leo, the nonbinary model from her Rainbow Love series is such a person. An extraordinary subject.
This series works to demonstrate the immense courage it takes to be openly part of the LGBTQ+ community in conservative Catholic Poland. The colors of the rainbow contrasting with the grayness of the streets and blocks of flats. Flying the rainbow flag in the center of Warsaw is a battle cry of strength.
Thanks to beautiful and brave people like Leo, the photographer believes that the situation in Poland will change for the better for the LGBTQ+ community. Because love is love and everyone should have the right to be loved.
If you’d like to see more of Edyta’s work, check out the following:
While in school Anastasiia Yanishevska realized she had a passion for photography, at the time she was in front of the lens as the model rather than behind it. To get in the role of photographer she would borrow her friend’s camera, yet she always wanted to have a camera of her own. A year ago she made her dream a reality, buying her first camera. She expresses herself through her projects and continues to learn and gain more experience as a photographer. Aiming to bring pleasure and make a positive contribution to our world.
Project: LGBTQ ART PRIDE
Anastasiia works to show the LGBTQ+/Pride community in realistic and positive ways, representing what it looks like to be part of the community in modern life. There is a specific focus on a girl trying to find happiness and joy in her own life. Many LGBT people report feeling the need to lie about their true sexual orientation or gender identity in order to avoid being a target for discrimination. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people.
The work aims to be a part of stopping and even preventing harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The photographer views the rainbow flag as an international symbol for LGBTQ pride and can be seen flying proudly. In her photos, the flag shows that absolutely everyone has the right to freely express their feelings. And to show the world their views on life and not be ashamed of it.
Anastasiia wants to send the message that homosexuality is not to be seen as an illness or mental disorder. She hopes that her work will encourage people to have a positive opinion about the LGBTQ community.
If you’d like to see more of Anastasiia’s work, check out the following:
Rushay Booysen is from Gqeberha, South Africa, and due to his need to document his involvement in the local music scene he discovered his love of photography. He has a distinctive portrait/documentarian style, with an interest in showing people and culture in his work. Rushay’s archival nature and the need to talk about community play a strong part in how he determined his style.
Project: Views from the Rainbow Nation
Rushay is fueled by his own challenges around identity and belonging and uses his photography practice as a creative outlet. He is in dialogue with people who share similar questions.
People are uncomfortable expressing their identities and are held back by prejudice. To counteract this, we must have conversations to help us understand people of other communities. Creatives need to assist in vocalizing the topic in a contentious manner. It is a goal of his to create more images and have them placed in spaces where they would be unexpected, allowing us to confront the prejudice.
If you’d like to see more of Rushay’s work, check out the following:
Nicolás Fuentes, better known as Nick Fuentes, is a Chilean photographer. He specializes in LGTBQIA+ content. And maintains a search for new, exciting, and helpful information to support his local LGTBQIA+ community
Project: Their Story
This project started in 2015 but it was not the message Nick wished to portray. The images were being made for the camera instead of showing empathy. At this exact moment, the project was born. It became a more empathetic and honest way to portray, share and show love. A sincere demonstration of affection, and through this series, he feels a sense of being able to contribute to the LGBTQIA+ community in Chile.
The concept came together little by little. At first, it was only models posing for the pictures. The result of this strategy was not a pleasant final image. It was too obvious that they wore models faking intimacy. He began to take pictures of real LGBTQI+ couples and there was a 180-degree change, in this moment it was starting to all fit together. The next step Nick took was to recruit couples to take pictures of for the project. Towards the end of the project, the decision was made to contextualize how the couples met.
The couples that make up the project are not cast. All couples that want to participate and contribute to the project are accepted. Consequently, the project is diverse representation of the LGBTQ+ community.
At the beginning of his shoots, Nick speaks with his models. Asking how their day or life is going. Allowing a sense of comfort between the parties. In return, he also tells them some things about himself, this way they start to bond and generate trust.
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