IOWA CITY — With the click of a camera button, Becca Bright is helping the world see the queer women of Iowa City through a new lens.
Bright, a 21-year-old University of Iowa student from Austin, Texas, is preparing a portfolio of photos of queer women living in Iowa City in a project called “IC Women.”
The name is essentially a play on words. IC represents the initials of Iowa City and also touches on the theme of visibility in the LGBTQ community — “I see, like I can see these women,” Bright said.
Bright didn’t know the portraits would turn into a larger project when she started it. On a whim last month, Bright decided to organize a casual photo shoot with a friend.
“I had so much fun with that just one really casual shoot … that I tweeted out if any other girlfriends of mine want their pictures taken, let me know,” she said.
Several of her friends responded, had their photos taken and were pleased with the final product, so word spread beyond Bright’s social circle to about 14 women total.
UI student Molly Bagnall, 20, was among the participants. For her, the experience was validating and a display of solidarity with local queer women.
“I think it’s important because if you’re taking ownership of your identity, it means that no one else is doing it for you,” she said. “It means that you are presenting yourself in a way that you wanted to be represented, especially when you’re doing it on such a local scale ...”
Bagnall said she hopes to see the project invigorate members of the art community in Iowa City to create more art about their own identity.
“It’s very much taking the image of yourself that you’re putting out to others and taking control of it,” she said. “ … Usually major media pegs queer women as being this one archetype, and that’s not necessarily true for all women, and so this project is a reassertion of, ‘I’m queer, and I look like this and I act like this, and it doesn’t matter that this doesn’t fit into a queer stereotype because I am.”
Learning the perspectives and stories of the women involved has been humbling, Bright said.
“A lot of girls talked about what it means to be a queer woman with body image, mental health, stereotypes, tropes, just kind of coming to terms with what does it look like to be a queer woman and what that means to them,” she said. “For each person, it’s been so different and so individual.”
The initial portfolio will be posted online in the near future with a short essay reflecting on the project and its focus on feminine identity, Bright said.
Bright’s hopes are to continue the project when she returns to Iowa City in the fall. At that time, Bright said she will look to expand the project to capture models of different races and gender identities so it can be as diverse as possible.
“With each shoot, with each friend or girl that I worked with, just the amount of trust there was and just me taking their photo for their own kind of reasons and experiences and thoughts meant a great, great deal to me,” she said.
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