Mar 23, 2017 1:43PM

James J. Robinson's New Photo Project Celebrates Support In The QTIPOC Community

"Being an ally to a cause does not mean taking all the attention for yourself."

Melbourne-based photographer James J. Robinson's latest project features three of his friends who are active in the QTIPOC (queer, trans, intersex, people of colour) community. Pheroza, Nakayn and Chantelle are outspoken members of a Facebook group James belongs to, and often offer support to those who may need a kind ear or a place to stay.

The series is part of a new initiative called We Are Equal — a photography project launched by dope label Diesel in collaboration with Working Class Secret Services. In the Diesel tradition of doing good things to support young talent, the brand recruited eight Australian photographers to create a series based on the theme of equality. James talked us through his contribution below. 

Lucy Jones: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you "do"?
James Robinson: I'm a filmmaker and photographer who exclusively uses analogue methods.

If you had to explain your artistic output in five words, what would you call it?
Motivated to change the system.

What's equality to you?
Recognising intersectionality and that all genders, races, sexualities, etc. intertwine to form an identity; supporting one means supporting the other.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our generation?
Knowing when not to speak. It's easy with the internet to express your opinions on everything, but there are times you need to let others speak who aren't often heard as much as you are. Being an ally to a cause does not mean taking all the attention for yourself.

Can you tell me about the individuals featured in the images you took for the We Are Equal project?
Pheroza, Nakayn and Chantelle are three friends I casted from a QTIPOC (queer, trans*, intersex people of colour) Facebook group I'm in. It's a really supportive group of people who find the whiteness of queer spaces and heteronormativity of POC spaces to be too isolating. We use it to vent on issues and ask for help when we need it. People offer their rooms for members when they are homeless and help raise money when others are desperate. Pheroza, Nakayn and Chantelle are all very active people in the group and I look up to them because they are such genuinely caring people who reserve judgements.

How do you hope to change the space that your own work exists in — the world of fashion photography?
Being more inclusive of all races and genders should be a primary focus, not just a trend. There was a runway at this fashion festival in Melbourne just last week that was totally white. I don't understand how that can happen anymore considering current discourse surrounding the issue, but it's indicative of the general attitude towards representation. It's easy to forget when you're privileged that seeing someone who is like you on a huge platform makes you feel validated.

How can we create more equality tomorrow (and today)?
Letting people know when they're doing something that someone might find offensive is the main one. 'Call out culture' can be messy, but people are willing to listen in most cases if you approach it in a friendly, informative manner. It's also important to not get too defensive when you've done something wrong — it happens to everybody; the fight for inclusivity is always evolving and it can be hard to keep up.

Words to live by:
Here's a quote from a book my friend Freya recommended to me, written by prolific filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky: "Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn't look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world."

Photography: James J. Robinson for We Are Equal

Lucy Jones