“We are the embodiment of a new history— a history renewed by reclamation and documentation. We are history. ” – Anisa Tavangar, “Being in History” Manifesto
Camila Falquez conceived a special project that reinvents the concepts of power and beauty, reclaiming the space and narrative of individuals that have been too long overlooked in our collective representation. “Being in History” stories and images has thus occupied the urban landscape of Manhattan, filling the streets with regalness and freedom. The project is also a Print fundraiser, where 100% of the proceeds with be donated to support trans lives, including to The Okra Project, GLITS and The Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Here’s our Q&A with the artist.
How did you conceive the project “Being in History“?
This project started a year ago in my studio. I invited some friends over and we shot the first portraits of the series. When I got the film back of those first portraits, I realized I had something way bigger than myself in my hands. Those first portraits were these strong and present entities, telling a story we have not been told in the History of Beauty. After that, I started investigating, not only about Queer history but also about Art History, and realized that there is a very strong relationship between power and beaty; That it’s the same people in the paintings we admire in the museums than in positions of power, and I understood that by changing the definition of who is beautiful, who owns dignity and regalness, we will change at the same the social understanding of power. From there, I decided I had the responsibility not only of educating myself, but also, to put these images out in the world. Never expected it would be in this way, but when this global crisis started, I realized I could no longer hold them in.
I decided to self release the photos, and to do it with the stories of each of the subjects at the center of the narrative of the project. I sent each subject their photo, and we decided to create a manifesto (written by Anisa Tavangar – @ anisatav)) including the thoughts of each of the subjects on the ideas of power, beauty and history; we also created a print sale to raise funds to protect the lives of trans women of color. In an attempt to occupy space beyond the algorithm of instagram, I biked to manhattan every day for two weeks in the search for walls to wheat paste the images of the project. After speaking to over 50 landlords, I managed to find 6 beautiful walls to paste a selection of the photos of this project. And so with the help and determination of my friends, we pasted the beautiful photos in the streets of the West Village and Chelsea – the same streets where The Stonewall riots started 50 years ago.
Being in History – Simone
Is there an anecdote, a story, a detail, a sentence that struck you particularly shooting this project?
Every human being in these photos affected me profoundly, everytime the subjects stood on the white pedestal, something very magical happened. Portraiture is very powerful, you allow a human being to be, to exist freely, to feel beautiful and seen. So every time, each story gave me energy to keep going.
How did you choose your subjects and build the relationship with them?
I found each subject in very different ways, some are my friends, some I stopped in the subway, In the street, found them on instagram, dancing in some party, in my neighborhood and just felt something very intuitive about their beauty, about how much people needed to see them.
Being in History – West Dakota
What did you learn by shooting them?
By shooting each of the subjects of this series I have learned that I should act as a vessel; that I should not put myself at the center of the narrative of their stories; that I should use my platform and my privilege to make their voice louder and stronger – not mine; that each of their stories is necessary for the world; that these images can help heal; that gender is a construct; That language traps us in the gender binary; that black trans women are women; that beauty is undeniable; that regalness exists in every single human being; that you don’t need fancy clothes to make someone feel like they belong on a pedestal; that occupying the streets with these photos is a way of occupying space beyond the algorithm of the internet; that there is not a better feeling than to help people connect with their most honest beauty.
Did you also discover something about yourself with this project?
I have unlearned so many ideas about gender since they not only affect those who live beyond it, but it oppresses us who live in it. I have understood how much of my identity was built upon the ideas of the gender binary, how much pain it causes, how we are trapped in its ideas, and how it neglects those who challenge it. I now understand how much it dominates every single aspect of our human interactions, and I thank each of the subjects of this project, for their voice and existence, because just by being, they heal us 🙂
Being in History – Joshua Allen
What is beauty to you?
To me, beauty is an inner quality, it exists in every single human that feels it. After my research in the history of beauty (“The History of beauty” Umberto Eco / “History of six Ideas” Tatarkiewicz – Some examples of the books i read) I realize beauty has been defined over and over again, trying to grasp it, box it, and the more I read, the more I now know it’s not a physical quality, but something deeper, almost spiritual. It’s an idea that is connected to our goodness, and by extension, to our power.
How do you hope to change the narrative of conformity with the project?
I hope that these images, the subjects in them, and anyone who sees themselves in them feels like they are part of the narrative of history. Quoting the manifesto we created for this project:
“We are the embodiment of a new history— a history renewed by reclamation and documentation. We are history. ”
What is the most powerful thing about images in general? And about these images?
To me, the most powerful thing that images have is the possibility of manifesting the impossible, of showing beauty in ways we haven’t seen, of creating endless realities, of giving visibility, of confronting us (society) with our fears and mistakes. Of opening windows to better and free ways of existing.
Being in History – Alok Menon
Being in History – Manifesto by Anisa Tavangar:
We are the embodiment of a new history— a history renewed by reclamation and documentation. We are history. By being, we manifest the impossible.
The blueprint left before us by those we honor charts a path of internal struggle. But through the energy of our ancestors and the promise of liberation, we shape-shift into truth, declare through glamor, and cultivate collective power. We create history today as we make mistakes, unlearn and relearn, grow outward, reach inward, love wholly, and stand in our power.
Every roar and every kindness sends ripples through narratives of conformity.
Power springs forth from the femme, the fluid, the fortuitous, the fighting, the free, the forgotten.
We bear the torch for those who will come after us, from those who came before us. We fuel ourselves to feed others. We are seeds planted in rich soil, growing in the cupped palms of ancestors, spirits, survivors, lovers, and friends.
When we draw equally from the same strong vibration, we feel power.
Our beauty is adorned in jewels. It is embraced in the ocean, covered, safe, and whole. It is naked, languid, alone, and safe. Sometimes, it is difficult. Sometimes, it is an absence of beauty. But always, it is kind. Our beauty brings us into a space of nourishment where we can share life with one another.
Our history will be told in stories of thriving. Collective healing, self determination, reparations, and redistribution will wash over the fears that block truth. We will mend each wound burst open by dichotomies.
But creating our history requires cultivating the imagination to see power as something new. Imagine a power that is Black and queer. Imagine a power that is communal. Imagine a power that nurtures beauty and knowledge. This is the power we create today.
Being in History – From left: Chella Man and Mary V .; Ericka Hart
This Project was produced and shot by Camila Falquez. The hair of photos was done by Artist Evanie Frausto, and Make-up by Laramie Glenn, Michaela Bosh, Mical klip and Agus Suga. The writing of this website was done by Anisa Tavangar. The pasting of the photos was done with the help of Joshua Geyer. And the prints will be printed with the collaboration of picturehouse + thesmalldarkroom.
Being in History – Zachary Tye Richardson