What is the "The Shortest Distance Between Two People" project?
The Shortest Distance Between Two People is a performance photography project exploring the construction of black queer female masculinity via the father-daughter relationship, and all of its associated frustrations, disappointments and yearnings.
In this project, I am inviting black queer women who see themselves as masculine in any way to have a conversation with their fathers about their masculinities and then sit for a portrait together.
I am also inviting black queer masculine women to contribute personal and family photographs that document their relationships to their masculinity and their fathers from any stage of their lives.
What is the goal of the project?
The aim of the project is to explore the complexities of the transmission of black masculinity from father to queer daughter, as well as to challenge stereotypes about black familial homophobia.
Why are you doing this project?
Since my mother’s death in 2011, I have been exploring grief and loss more thoroughly in my work, and this project was motivated by my revisiting my relationship with my dad when old grief resurfaced from my parents’ divorce in 1980, as I grieved my mother. Many of us have very complicated relationships with our dads, and this project is my attempt to offer an opportunity for risk, for connection and for letting go.
Where and when will the project be exhibited?
Right now, The Shortest Distance Between Two People is scheduled for two exhibitions:
1) The project will be featured in a solo exhibition at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography in Toronto, Canada in September 2018
2) The project will be exhibited again in a solo exhibition at La Centrale in Montreal, Canada in January 2019
Who can participate in this project?
Any woman can participate who self-identifies as being black, as being queer in some way (that may be dyke, gay, lesbian, bisexual or something else for you) and as being masculine (and that may be butch, stud, genderqueer, masculine-of-centre or something else for you), and whose father is willing to have a conversation with her about their masculinities and then sit together for a photographic portrait.
How are you defining the father-daughter relationship?
Because of the limitations and complexities involved with this project, I am inviting folks who want to participate to define “father” for themselves. If there is a self-identified man who fathered you in some way and that you feel helped to shape your masculinity as you define it, then that is good enough for me.
How do I get involved?
1) If you are willing to sit for a portrait and your father has also agreed, please contact me through this website to discuss the project in more detail, answer any questions and book you for a shoot as soon as possible.
2) If you have family photos of you and your dad (or just you or just your dad) that expresses something about your relationship to your masculinity and your father from any stage of your lives, please email the best quality version that you have to shortestdistance2018(@)gmail.com. You can send as many photos as you like.
2) You can also help by sharing information about this project and this website link with anyone that you think might be willing to help me bring this project to life. You can talk about it, email it to friends and post it on social media.
How will I know what to talk to my father about?
As research for this project, I invited my own father to have a “father-son” conversation with me about masculinity and being a man, and I am more than happy to share the topics that we discussed and also the list of questions that I used to help give you ideas about how your own conversation might go.
And what about the family photographs?
This part of the project seeks to make visible the ways in which our masculinity has been shaped by our fathers throughout our lifetimes, and also to explore the family relationships of black queer masculine women as a more complex phenomenon than currently represented.
You don’t need to sit for a portrait to contribute family photographs to the project. I welcome any and all family photographs that express anything about your relationship to your masculinity and your father. What this might be I leave up to you and women anywhere in the world can contribute. All you need to do is email me a digital copy with the best quality that you have to shortestdistance2018(@)gmail.com.
These photographs will be shown as a wall installation alongside the portraits whenever this project is exhibited in a gallery.
When and where will the portrait photographs be taken?
This will be different for each set of participants and we can discuss it together. I am located in Toronto and I can travel to anywhere in the GTA and southern Ontario. I also hope to travel to some other cities in Canada and the U.S. if there is enough interest. For each individual photo, I prefer to choose a location based on input from both of you, but I am happy to suggest one as well. Generally, I will need a public outdoor location or a large indoor location that has a lot of natural light. I will be working with a collaborator, Brendan George Ko, to shoot your portrait using medium format film.
What do I get for participating?
There are no fees for participation. Hopefully, engaging in this project and encouraging discussion and reflection around the experiences of black queer masculine women and their fathers will be personally meaningful for you.
Okay, I'd like to participate. What's next?
That’s so great! Thank you so much. Contact me here and tell me a little about how you would like to participate. I will get in touch with you once I hear from you and we’ll take it from there. Or if you just want to send your family photos, email them directly to shortestdistance2018(@)gmail.com with as much or as little info as you like.
Is there something you still need to know?
Thanks for reading all of this. If I haven’t answered your questions and you are interested in participating, please feel free to contact me.