an intimate photo diary of long distance lgbt love
Cuban-born, Barcelona-based photographer Luna Tristá shares thoughts on her ongoing series ‘She’s My Man’ -- portraits she’s snapped of her Paris-based partner over the last five years.
Whether it's high schoolers in Malibu sharing their stories of first crushes and heartbreak with Opening Ceremony or beautiful queer teens sounding off about sexuality in Berlin, young people around the world are putting a refreshing new lens on love and lust. Cuban-born, Spain-based photographer Luna Tristá started photographing her Paris-based partner upon their first IRL meeting five years back. Titled She's My Man, the ongoing series lends a look into the couple's adventures posting up under palm trees and chilling at parties, where close-up crops and hazy visuals communicate a playful intimacy. But Tristá's personal portrait series isn't simply a diary of her relationship, it's also a means of exploring gender dynamics within queer culture -- where masculinity and femininity aren't so binarized. We catch up with Luna to find out more about LGBTQ culture in Spain, and why self love can lead to powerful social change.
Where are you from, what were you interested in as a teenager finding your way in the world, and how did you become interested in photography?
I was born in Havana, Cuba. I was a shy kid and introverted teenager. I would spend hours in the silence of my room looking at my family's photo albums, reading or listening to music. Music was crucial to me at the time. I studied violin for seven years in Italy and spent many hours rehearsing. It was when I decided to move to Spain that my transformation as a photographer started. It was the start of a personal quest to find a way to communicate without the use of speech. Photography turned into something visceral to me -- it changed forever the way I view the world.
Tell us about your partner. How did you meet, how long have you been together, and what do you enjoy most about her?
My partner and I met five years ago through Facebook, but for a long time we didn't have a proper conversation other than wishing each other happy birthday, etc. I lived in Barcelona and she lived in Paris. One day we struck a conversation and three days later, I was buying a plane ticket to go meet her. She didn't speak Spanish and I didn't speak French, so we kissed a lot! What I love about her is her creativity, her energy, her sense of humor, the way that she looks at me -- so sweet.
Let's talk about LGBT rights and queer culture in Spain. Is there a large or visible LGBT community, or is homosexuality still considered taboo?
In 2005 the law that allows same sex marriage and adoption was passed in Spain. Thanks to these new rights, to talk about ones own sexual orientation and to present oneself to the world without fear of being judged by society got much easier. This law has given more visibility to the LGBT community in Spain, a country where not too long ago homosexuality was something diagnosed by Psychiatrists as a mental disorder. The LGBT community has been persecuted, repressed and punished by the law for many years. The queer culture has also been very present in Barcelona. There are many seminars, art expositions, publications, postgraduate studies and doctoral thesis about the subject, which shows that queer culture is very present in the Spanish society of today.
Where were the images shot? What was the energy or vibe you were trying to capture?
I started working on She's My Man on the day that I met my girlfriend. My idea was to take photos of her once a month whenever she came to Barcelona or I traveled to Paris. They are very spontaneous shots, there's nothing staged about them. It's my personal journal about our story.
How does gender identity play into this series?
It's clear that we have achieved a new openness on a social level, but ours is a society that still keeps its rigid, absurd structures when it comes to identity. Gender is something that evolves and takes shape beyond the social and cultural stereotypes that are imposed to us, and that dictate the concepts of what's feminine and what's masculine. She's My Man is a personal project about my relationship with my partner and captures intimate and everyday moments. I like to provoke and for my images to have a social and an ironic side: to make people reflect about the way we live our own sexual identities, and we express the individuality of our genre, beyond any preconceived concepts of masculinity/femininity.
In America, we've seen a really radical shift towards not only LGBT rights and visibility in the last year, but a rejection of conventional gender norms. How have you seen things change and what are your thoughts on it?
I believe that gender identity should be discussed in schools. This way we would avoid many bullying, homophobic, and transphobic episodes. There's a lot of disinformation on the subject. To normalize the development of our own identities would be a step forward but also an euphemism. We are too conditioned by our rules of social conduct.
What do you hope people take from this series?
She's My Man is a personal project, an observation, a visual diary, a declaration of love that I want to share with the world. With this series I want to address those young people that are terrified of not being accepted and that are not living their own homosexuality openly. Social acceptance will only come after our own acceptance.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Luna Tristá