June 29, 2019

Andrew Tess tells 30 stories of Pride through Polaroid photos

Photographer Andrew Tess (@andrewtess) set out on a mission of reflection for Pride Month: tell stories of personal pride through Polaroid photography.  A New Yorker himself, he invited thirty different LGBTQI+ identifying New York based designers, artists, actors, musicians, chefs to share their personal notions of pride while he photographed them with the Pride flag. “The aim of this project,” says Andrew, “is to raise awareness of the diversity of perspectives and experiences in our community.” Read on for the back story behind the series and 5 of our favorite photos.

What was your intention with this project?

I hope this project can inspire people of all gender and sexual identities to see how common we all are. We all come from different parts of the world and have these different singular experiences yet in spite of that we are all looking for the same thing. We are looking to be loved for who we are. For our humanity to be seen and understood. I hope any person struggling with their sense of identity can stumble upon this project and feel a bit more free to be themselves. No matter where you come from, you’re not alone. This project was very healing for me and I hope it can be for other people too.

How did you select your subjects for this photo series?

I chose people who inspire me. People who have a certain quality within that I find to be beautiful and special. I was looking for people I could relate to. I started asking friends and people I’ve met through the years in this small creative world if they wanted to be a part of this project. The brief I shared was that throughout the month of June, I wanted to photograph a range of LGBTQI+ identifying people with an iteration of the pride flag, as a symbol of self acceptance and being proud. I’d share a different image each day on my Instagram with a few words in the caption about what pride means to the photo’s subject. Though it was never truly about the flag or any of iterations, it was about the person holding the flag. No matter what flag anyone held, there was same cosmic energy linking us all together.

What was your favorite thing about the process?

My favorite part of shooting is always learning from and talking with the person in the image. Life tends to move so fast and in crazy different directions and that’s why I love taking the time to take someone’s portrait – especially on Polaroid, we have to slow down and see one another. Then we take the time to sign the Polaroid. It’s a fleeting moment in time that’s slowed down and we experience it together. With this project though, it was really special to hear about everyone’s different paths to pride; to learn more about them and see how they interpreted the flag into the image.

Why did you choose to tell the story through the Polaroid format?

 I’ve been shooting with Polaroids since I was a kid. It feels right.

@johnlovespinecones

“For me being gay is about connecting with other people and their stories. My identity is so ingrained in my life, taste, style, relationships, and humor and I strive to help other people in this community who don’t have the privilege to express that part of themselves the way I can. As a fashion designer, it’s important that the clothes I design are more than something you put on, it’s a message to who you are and what you stand for, and I stand for honesty and equality.”

@andrewgelwicks

“Pride is being your true, authentic self.”

@harajuku.nyc

“Pride to me is my walk. The way I carry myself through life, it is giving thanks to the people that have built that foundation for me & recognizing their activism, showing my gratitude by the way I’ve chosen to present myself in this world.”

@iamdakotawest

“Pride for me is giving yourself permission to be you and not letting external judgement guide you”

@goodnight_kia

“I am proud of many things in this life. I am proud that I can transcend and defy labels. I’m proud that I can walk amongst giants with my head held high. I’m proud of being unstoppable, even when the odds seem against me. I’m proud of being an artist. I’m proud of my love, that its gravitational pull has led me to my ultimate happiness. I’m proud to be here, living and thriving. Can’t nobody take that away from me.”

Check out the full series and more at @andrewtess