Media impacts how society acts and how we treat each other. For a long time, queer people have been the butt of the joke, and something to be made fun of.
Examining today’s media, we haven’t come as far as people might think. Queer people are still falsely and poorly represented. Many queer characters are written without depth. TV shows, movies, and music still perpetuate damaging stereotypes.
I have battled internalized biphobia for several years. Watching the way bisexual people, particularly women, were written into the media exacerbated that. From these representations I was told that bisexuals are just confused, that they haven’t “picked a side yet.” That they are more likely to cheat, especially with someone of the opposite sex of their partner. Media told me that being bisexual wasn’t a valid sexuality. Almost zero television characters actually state they identify as bisexual.
My project is a response of defiance to how queer people have been underrepresented and grossly misrepresented. I have collaborated with a few members of the queer community to take nude portraits of them outdoors with the pride flag or flags they feel best represents their identity. I worked to help these collaborators feel seen and proud of their gender and/or sexuality.
This process has had profound reverberations. I have become more in touch with and accepting of my own bisexuality.
The work of artists such as Molly Landreth and authors like Jan Zita Grover helped me develop this project and add my own voice to the conversation that has been going on for decades: queer is not the stereotypes you see on your screen.
My hope is that whoever sees this series feels inspired and empowered the way my collaborators and I did while shooting. I invite and encourage you to participate in this conversation and share photographs, written works, or any other forms of art with your community. I would love to see these so please tag them with #underthebiumbrella AND/OR #undertherainbowumbrella.
Shelby Kessler has been photographing beautiful things for six years. Kessler will be graduating this year with her BFA in Photography and a minor in Communications. Through her bright and raw style, she hopes to use her degree as a means to change people’s perspectives surrounding marginalized and taboo topics and communities.