Queer fashion files: Liz Ham photographs the artists of ‘Absolutely Queer’
By: Hailey Moroney
Welcome to Archer’s queer fashion files! Each month, we’ll interview queer trendsetters and tastemakers, showcasing the diversity and talent of the fashion world. You can check out all episodes of our fashion files here.
For over 20 years, Liz Ham has been crafting captivating imagery in a wide-ranging career that spans documentary, fashion and portrait photography. Throughout her practice, Liz employs all three of these skills, weaving them together to create a body of work that’s best known for celebrating her subjects and centering their identity.
All images by: Liz Ham (courtesy of Powerhouse)
Hailey Moroney: Liz! Hello! I am such an admirer of your work, so bear with me while I fangirl my way through some questions. Let’s jump straight into it! Your most recent series was commissioned by Powerhouse to accompany the Absolutely Queer exhibition, which is a celebration of queer creativity for Sydney WorldPride 2023. Tell me how this series came about.
Liz Ham: I had heard a few friends talking about their involvement in the Absolutely Queer exhibition for Sydney WorldPride. I was so excited to see how it would all come together, and when the Powerhouse contacted me with this commission, I was over the moon.
I’ve recently been concentrating on large format portraiture in my practice, and really wanted to pitch that as my methodology for this series. The Powerhouse team understood my approach, and were happy to afford me a very open brief for these portraits.
My approach was to create collaborative photographs with each of the nine subjects that spoke not only of their artistic practice, but hinted at how and where their creativity manifested.
I asked each artist to describe a space that resonated with them, and made them feel secure, contented and inspired. I photographed each of the subjects in medium and large format. The latter format was achieved using a customised 4×5 rangefinder camera called a Razzle – this process allowed for a slower, more meditative, and contemplative photographic process.
HM: I first discovered your work through your book, Punk Girls. Did you find it to be an organic evolution from Punk Girls to your commission for Absolutely Queer? Were there any similarities you found in both cohorts?
LH: Yes indeed! I have always explored subjects that sit outside of mainstream culture. Since producing my book, I have continued to photograph people who intrigue me, and they do usually sit within a more counter-cultural context.
I would say that over half of my subjects for the Punk Girls project would identify as queer. There are so many intersections between punk and queer. When I consider the core values of punk, I think of community, resistance and non-conformity. Both punk and queer are built on these foundations; they embrace intersectionality and a non-normative stance.
HM: You’ve been working in the industry commercially for the last two decades. In this time, the fashion community has started to evolve and catch up to the underground, where all trends are born. Do you think the industry is finally starting to reflect the diversity of the creative community that feeds it, or do we have a longer way to go?
LH: I think it’s wonderful to see more representations of diversity and individualism within mainstream media these days. When it’s actually inclusive and collaborative, it feels effortless and just right. Too often, and usually when situated more commercially, this can sometimes feel tokenistic and insincere – and this is why I believe there is still a way to go.
I really enjoy witnessing the rupturing of conventional modes and transmissions of fashion media and representation that we see in art, online, in clubs and in more transgressive media.
HM: What was your favourite part about working on Absolutely Queer and watching the exhibition come to life at Powerhouse?
LH: I was intrigued to see how the Absolutely Queer exhibition would take shape. The nine artists and collectives are all so unique and varied, and I wondered how it would all come together!
Absolutely Queer is a brilliant show. Each of the artists I met raved about the curatorial and exhibition design team they worked with. It is really immersive and quite intimate (considering the scale!). Absolutely Queer feels more like a club-like environment than a museum exhibition.
My favourite part of the photographic process was the collaborative aspect of creating these portraits with the subjects’ consultation and input. I really enjoy spending time with people in spaces that they have a deep connection to, so liberating most of the artists from being photographed in a typical studio space was fun! Although there was no getting out of the making-space for the portrait of Matthew and Maurice (Beautiful and Useful Studio) – that location truly is their happy place!
HM: What are you working on now? Anything exciting coming up?
LH: I’m building a series of portraits that continue on from my Punk Girls work, but with less binaries or constraints in terms of subject matter.
Lately, I am just following my instinct with how and when I select subjects to make portraits with, concentrating especially on working with people that I have a personal connection to. I’m not sure where this series will end up, but for the time being I’m enjoying not having too much of an end goal. It’s nice to work without pressure!
Hailey Moroney is a photographer, entrepreneur, and digital marketing specialist based in Naarm (Melbourne). Since 2018, Hailey has been on the design team at Archer Magazine, the world’s most inclusive publication about sexuality and gender, curating images and managing the magazine’s Instagram channel. Hailey runs Bedford Studios, a vintage and upcycling studio that is size and gender inclusive. Hailey’s interests include vintage cars, cowboy boots and her three-legged kitten, Puzzles.
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