Dark Room: Handling queer photographs: Ariel Goldberg

Dark Room: Handling queer photographs: Ariel Goldberg
Archive Shelf Location BALTIC2021M / 24/18.CHRI
Publication Date 21 Dec 2021

Coinciding with Phyllis Christopher’s exhibition Contacts at BALTIC and the publication of her book Dark Room: San Francisco Sex and Protest, 1988-2003 (Book Works, 2022), Ariel Goldberg, Languid Hands and Sam Dolbear contribute to a digital noticeboard reflecting on their own encounters with queer photographic archives.

Phyllis Christopher prints her photographs in home and community darkrooms, using various techniques to create unique analogue prints. Many of the works included in Contacts were hand printed for the exhibition and each image in her book Dark Room is reproduced from a print rather than a photographic negative. The way that Christopher’s photographs are made by hand resonates with the kinds of queer intimacy and do-it-yourself cultures that they show as well as how the images continue to circulate and are cared for. The digital noticeboard responds to Christopher’s photography and to issues of desire, consent, and labour that encircle queer photographic archives.

Ariel Goldberg

As soon as Phyllis Christopher moved to San Francisco in 1988, she continued to contribute (following the initial publication of her work by Susie Bright) to On Our Backs, the sex positive magazine that promised on its cover to be ‘Entertainment for the Adventurous Lesbian.’ During the late 1980s and 1990s the magazine tiptoed to documenting emerging discussions on trans life in the Bay Area. During Christopher’s time with the magazine, there were two 101-style feature stories focused on answering questions to the uninformed, mostly about trans masculinity: ‘Some Girls Will be Boys’ by Marcy Scheiner, with photographs by Honey Lee Cottrell and Kathleen Aird and in January/February 1995, ‘How Shall I Address you? Pronouns, Pussies, and Pricks – Talking to Female to Male Transsexuals,’ by Cherry Smith with photographs by Loren Rex Cameron. I revisit these feature stories – which at times use radically different language and frameworks to our current language around trans experience – against a backdrop of other traces of trans cultural work that appeared in On Our Backs. Christopher was a freelance photographer at the magazine as soon as she moved to San Francisco, providing images for such stories as: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl: The Pleasures of Being Naughty’ (May/June 1991) and ‘Mistress of Iron’ (July/August 1992). Christopher also became Photography Editor at On Our Backs from 1991–1993. What role did the magazine’s editors and frequent contributors, like Christopher, play in directing the emergent discourse on trans life within a lesbian magazine?

Ariel Goldberg’s publications include The Estrangement Principle (Nightboat Books, 2016) and The Photographer (Roof Books, 2015). They are a 2020 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant recipient for their book in progress Just Captions: Ethics of Trans and Queer Image Cultures. Goldberg’s writing has most recently appeared in Afterimage, e-flux, Artforum, and Art in America. Their research and writing has been supported by the New York Public Library, the Franklin Furnace Fund, SOMA in Mexico City, and Smith College. Goldberg has been a guest curator at The Poetry Project and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. They teach across multiple universities in the New York area.

Author Ariel Goldberg
Formats PDF, digital noticeboard
Related Artist Phyllis Christopher
Category Photography
Keywords Documentary photography, Black-and-white photography, photographic technique, Lesbian, Queer culture, Homosexuality, Protest, AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome), Sex, Archives, Sexuality, LGBTQIA+
Related City/Region San Francisco
Related Event Phyllis Christopher: Contacts (23 October 2021 – 20 March 2022)
Related Gallery BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

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