Lost Lesbians of London
After weighing up the potential of a few different briefs, I settled on ‘Lost Lesbians of London’, a photographic exploration of lesbian visibility in London.
When I first came out as a lesbian, I searched for LGBTQ spaces to visit and find myself in, however I was surprised to discover there remained only one lesbian-centric space left in London, SHE Soho. London is cited as one of the most queer friendly and diverse cities on the globe, with a thriving Queer scene and nightlife, so why is there such a lack of lesbian venues and clubs? This not a unique trend to London, it has been happening nation and even worldwide at an alarming rate. Looking into this phenomenon several articles already have questioned why, discussing a variety of possible reasons from: Gentrification, the increase of dating apps, LGBTQ integration into mainstream culture and more people identifying as queer and gender fluid that could all explain why there is no longer such a need for lesbian exclusive spaces.
I am interested in how the landscape of the LGBTQ scene in London has visually changed over the past few years, and whether it is still possible to see lesbian culture within the city. As I researched bars that had closed in the last few years, I noticed the absence of one complete source of visual documentation of how the lesbian scene has changed. Even when the scene was thriving in it’s peak, there has always been less visual representation of women loving women culture. A community that was once forced to live in secrecy and fear, it seems they burned brightly and loved fiercely when the scene was at it’s most alive. Whatever the reason for change, I believe it’s important to document the evolving landscape of the lesbian scene, even in it’s final days. It’s important, it’s history.
References and Sources
“For reasons I still don’t entirely understand but which will probably one day be explained by science. A lot of these queer clubs have since closed down but back in 2008 in London, we took up space.”
“The existence of an identifiable lesbian scene in London dates back to the 1940s. With more women working and away from home, an exciting bar scene began to emerge. “
Below is a documentary by Broadly that explores the phenomenon of lesbian bars closing down across America. It was this documentary that inspired to explore my own city in a similar way.
Lesbian bars are closing, visibility is no longer as obvious so how do you capture document something that is not there? I compiled of addresses of where famous lesbians bars and venues used to be, I intend to begin photographing their absence. I intend to make a visual map of lesbian history through a lens in 2018. My initial reccie and location scout will help me map out the areas I need to photograph, I intend to keep an eye out for any traces of Queer history in the vicinity. Photographs will be taken of store fronts, or street corners, but will not be limited to shots like these, graffiti, faded flag motives are all something I might hope to find. I’m attempting to photograph lesbian visibility and if I discover that little remains, that is still worth photographing, it documents the disappearance.
Taking pictures of store fronts, or street views may sound dry on paper but I have composed a visual mood board of artists who have successfully and dynamically captured the mood of a bar or a closed down venue. Many of these were shot at night, to emphasise the fluorescent lights and hues of a bar or shop front. This means I could schedule another reccie during the evening, it would be worthwhile for me to have a variety of options when it comes down to finalising the shoot. I love the gritty feel of many of these photos, and the dark shadows creates an evasive quality to the work, something that might reflect the mystery of the lesbian scene in when I come to shoot.
I don’t want the shoot to be a bland documentation, I want the images to convey a feeling, whether it be nostalgic, secretive or maybe even sad. I’m excited to see what will be the emerging tone as I discover and shoot these places.
Lesbian Visibility in London in Photos
Before attempting to document what remains of lesbian visibility in London’s landscape, it is important that I understand how it used to look. I sourced a variety of different images of the Queer woman scene in London from the 1940s onwards.
Although I have set the brief myself, it is important that I complete the project to industry standard as if I had been commissioned. As my subject matter focuses on a subculture it is unlikely that my photos would be used commercially, however due to the reportage style shoot I am planning the shots may be useful to news platforms or magazines. Publications like Broadly, Teen Vogue, Out Magazine, and other smaller publications regularly post articles and features on specific cultures and political movements, and may hire a photographer like myself to produce a set of relating images for them.
While shooting I must keep in mind these potential clients, look for shots that are intriguing and news worthy, something that would sell.
At the end of this project I aim to produce a set of images that would fit well featured in a report piece exploring the disappearance of LGBTQ/ lesbian spaces in London. However for my own use, I hope to produce a small photo book that tells a narrative and is visually compelling.
Shooting: Schedule, Equipment & Budget
What will be required to complete this shoot?
The shoot will require a detailed schedule in order to scout all the locations I need to meet the requirement of the briefs. At least three reccies will need to be scheduled, a reccie is an industry term that describes visiting a location in order to become familiar with it. I will need 3 to cover the wide range of areas I hope to photography and one in the evening to visit predetermined locations in low lighting.
I will consult various sources to locate lists of lesbian/ queer women focused spaces that have closed down and will narrow down locations to visit.
As I am choosing to do the majority of my shooting on public land, I consulted several sites about filming & photography in the boroughs of London. Information from the City of London website listed the following information about shooting in public spaces:
During my reccie, I will note whether I will be shooting on private or public property and acquire the appropriate permissions if needed.
As the shoot will predominantly be reportage style, I require equipment that is easy to transport around London, this might include a collapsable tripod, my SLR, 2 variety of lens type (zoom & prime), a camera bag, a lens hood, filter for lens to account for shooting outside in changing light, a handful of permission requests for shooting, spare batteries and memory card. I do not own a prime lens for my Nikon yet as it is fairly new, I also do not own a lens hood if I had a larger budget for the shoot I might hire equipment from Wex Photographic for the day.
My brief, ‘Lost Lesbians of London’, is to create a series of documentary photographs exploring the decline of visible lesbian culture in London in response to the closure of many lesbian bars over the last ten years. The series will be compromised of at least 10 images, 5 of predetermined locations of bars that have shut down and 5 reportage photos of lesbian visibility throughout the city eg, posters, graffiti, LGBTQ community centres etc. There will be 3 shoot dates between 12th – 15th February, two during day time hours(10am-4pm) and one evening shoot(5pm-8pm) to ensure an interesting variety of shots of the chosen locations, dates are able to be interchangeable if weather is restrictive. The final images will be selected, edited and delivered to the client in the appropriate format by 16th February to prepare them to be presented to the class on Monday 19th, February.
List of bars that have closed since 2000 https://goodbyelondontown.wordpress.com/tag/changing-soho/
List of notable queer women spaces