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22 May 2017

Sincerely Queer, Rencontres d’Arles 2016

SÉBASTIEN LIFSHITZ COLLECTION

I have always been interested in outsider discourses, those written outside mainstream history, far from any moral, political and social power or normalising gaze. That is why I have collected amateur photographs for many years: they show a different perspective on society. Cross-dressing is a great example.

It is often said of transvestites that they are either ashamed of themselves or crave the limelight, but things are actually much more complicated than that. When tens of women took pictures of themselves dressed as men, an oddly widespread collective rite in the late 19th century, they may have been making a political statement: perhaps wearing clothes of the opposite sex was a way of claiming the same rights as men. But after 1800, women wanting to dress as men had to obtain permission from the Prefecture of Police. Men and women who stepped out of bounds risked everything: their reputations, friends and jobs. That is why many of these photographs were taken in private spaces—bedrooms, parlours or gardens— away from prying eyes. The people in them must have felt freer there, less bound to conform to social norms of self-representation.

Sincerely Queer is full of men and women who dared to play with gender in front of the camera’s eye, something that, perhaps, they would not have dreamed of doing in public. In private, these small groups boldly enjoyed experimenting with mixing gender roles. From these bubbles of privacy arose a spirit of rebellion that, decades later, came out into the streets to be openly expressed at last.

Sébastien Lifshitz

Textes : Christine Bard, Isabelle Bonnet et Farid Chenoune.
Publication: Mauvais Genre, éditions Textuel, 2016.
Texts: Christine Bard, Isabelle Bonnet and Farid Chenoune.
Framing by Circad, Paris.
Exhibition venue: Atelier des Forges.