Asa Johannesson

Looking Out, Looking In: Representation and the Viewer in Queer Photography.

London College of Communication

This practice based PhD will examine how queer representation in photographic portraiture is understood across boundaries of age, society and culture. I will investigate how the photographic portrait can be used as a tool for breaking down gender boundaries, beyond queer communities.

This research has developed from issues on queer representation that I have come across in my photographic practice, which explores the relationship between the photographic portrait and non-heteronormative genders. Through my practice I have been working with ideas on recognition and rejections of visual codes that have come to establish gendered identities.

Through working with photography and focus groups, I will extend issues around image and viewer focusing on the following key aspects of queer representation: Queer iconography in photographic portraiture, risks of self-ghettoization, and issues around appropriating queer theory to photographic practice. Within this context I aim to contribute to a new approach to and new understandings of readings of contemporary queer photography. The following research questions will be raised:

  • Do political intentions inherent to portraiture within queer photography transcend gender boundaries beyond queer communities?
  • Are there unexplored possibilities within photographic portraiture to explore gender as non-fixed and non-dichotomised?

Through my research I will investigate the role of the photograph itself as a technique and material, its relation to history, the  history of photography and identity politics. Utilising a theoretical framework of performativity and semiotics, I will ask whether queer photography is created for a  ‘queer gaze’, how it functions for a ‘non-queer gaze’, and why this is relevant. My research will contribute to a rereading of queer portraiture.


Dr Sara Davidmann

Professor Val Williams