photographing queer youth culture in regional spaces

In their latest series, Jonno Revanche explores unseen LGBTQ+ experiences in country Australia. "I'm in awe of people thriving under difficult conditions and circumstances," they say, "of people finding connection and understanding and empathy in a...

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Jun 7 2017, 3:10am

Interdisciplinary creative Jonno Revanche has spent much of this year chronicling the lives of the queer youths in regional Australia, in an effort to bring visibility to unseen spaces. While inner-city LGBTQ+ culture has been mapped in photography and film for decades, Jonno noted that outside of bright urban constellations, young queer experiences were left largely undocumented.

Here the photographer turns their camera away from coastal cities towards the country's interior, asking the viewer to witness different contours of Australian identity. Like all of their work, the result is a tender and intimate insight into the lives of young people, and while it began as a relatively straight forward visual investigation, it soon grew to be a far more detailed study of identity and youth. While the series is still being shot, we checked in with them and got a little peek at the project so far.

Hey Jonno, tell us about this new photo series you're shooting.
Initially, it began as a way to explore queer life in our regional spaces and in the bush. But now it's grown and evolved: it's more about unrecognised sub-cultures and circles that exist on the fringes. It's about the way people survive, establish identities, and rationalise their isolation through imagination and make-believe.

What inspires this, and your work more broadly?
I'm in awe of people thriving under difficult conditions and circumstances, of people finding connection and understanding and empathy in a clinical and superficial world. I have an urge to represent the kinds of attachments or forms of love that aren't often explored in mass media. I'm also inspired by the way the planet cultivates life, defending and reinforcing it. I'm moved and humbled by the daring and uncompromising artists who came before me and shared my experiences, making it possible for me to be creative without the same fear.

It's a big project, have you faced any challenges so far?
I'm trying to find a reasonable middle ground between my subjects and my own fantastical projections — it can easily descend into the latter, if I'm not careful. I'm trying to find a way to thread all of the concepts and subjects together in a way that feels true and meaningful.

This is very much about life away from Australia's capital cities. While you're from Adelaide, hardly a rural outpost, it's still a smaller scene. Did you personally find it difficult to survive and thrive there as an artist?
In many ways yes, but those initial difficulties meant I had to ask deep, searching questions about what I wanted to pursue, what I wanted to achieve, what was worth compromising for, and what was worth challenging myself for. There were many instances in Adelaide where I was the only visibly different/marginalised person in the room and so it felt like I had to try five times harder than anyone else to be noticed or given the time of day. I can't imagine how more difficult it would be to be QTPOC in Adelaide or for somebody not as lucky as I. I know how many hoops you'd have to jump through to be recognised. I hope things are getting better though and the bro supremacy has eased off a bit.

You're now based in Sydney. How do different environments impact your artistic output?
People can live in Adelaide their whole lives and not have their values questioned —Sydney doesn't coddle you like that. I'm a Capricorn, so naturally I need external forces to push me past my personal threshold and expand my abilities. My friend Tabitha Prado, another writer, said "class is about access, and geography absolutely affects access." I don't think anyone can create sophisticated dialogues about human lifestyles, marginalisation, and privilege if they're not in the midst of that.

I'm not resentful of Adelaide, it defines me more than I give it credit for. The only times I've properly moved up until recently was moving from the country to the city, and then again two years ago moving from that smaller city to a big city. So I've become hyper aware of what defines all those places now, and how people are influenced by their communities and their environments. 

Credits


Text Ena Grozdanić
Photography Jonno Revanche
Art direction Matea Gluscevic