Celine Yasemin's photos capture the soft side of social outcasts

The Berlin-based photographer makes moving, sensitive imagery – a counterbalance to homophobia and oppressive social boundaries.

by Douglas Greenwood
09 May 2022, 11:00am

Celine Yasemin first started taking photographs as a teenager growing up in a small town outside of Cologne, Germany. “During these years I often felt uncomfortable in my own skin,” she says. “Photography made me feel more at ease with my body. Using an old camera of my parents, I experimented with self-portraits. Every time I felt sad, I took pictures. It became this ritualistic form of therapy for me.”

From that pain she built her debut photo project, 21 Gram, released in 2019. "The title 21 Gram came from an article I read about a research scientist who did experiments on the weight of the soul in 1902,” she says. “He wanted to prove that the soul was material and measurable and he came to the conclusion that our soul weighs 21 grams.” It was an opportunity for her to build confidence, both as a photographer and a queer person; for it, she took pictures of like-minded figures, both friends and strangers, in the French city of Arles, where Celine had studied for two semesters at the Ecole Nationale Superièure de la Photographie.

“There had been homophobic attacks in Arles the summer before, and the discussion of LGBT+ rights growing in the city,” she says. The result was a beautiful series about LGBT+ couples and individuals that shone a light on Celine’s remarkable ability to capture intimacy, even when the subject has no prior relationship with the photographer. In 2021, it was turned into her debut photobook. Below are a series of pictures from that project.

They are joined by a number of images Celine has made since. Since graduating she now resides in Berlin, though shoots many queer, evocative subjects the world over. Through her lens, the hard-edged preconceptions of the scene — dismissed as explicit or exposing — soften. Elsewhere, big statement characters unveil new sides of themselves; subjects that appear shy uncoil.

"I like to create closeness,” Celine says. “I just haven’t figured out why." With each new image, she grows closer to reaching that epiphany. 

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Photography Celine Yasemen

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