The Pink Choice
This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Loving Pride". Through visual stories, our curators explore the meanings of pride.
Maika Elan is the photographer of the project ‘The Pink Choice’. She won the first prize for contemporary issues stories at World Press Photo 2013. For her project, she took pictures of LGBTQIA+ couples in Vietnam showing feelings of romantic love in a way that is natural and beautiful. She chose to capture moments of their daily lives in order for any viewer to be able to empathise.
On the 11th of November, 2012, the first pride in Hanoi, Vietnam, was organised. From that moment, there has been an edition every year. LGBT flags blow in the wind throughout the whole city and several workshops, talks, and events are organised. This, with the goal to gain more tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ community. The realisation of pride and the increase in these types of events has had a positive influence and change. Leading away from a society with a homophobic attitude, towards a society that is much more tolerant to different kinds of people and minority groups.
This seems like progress and development towards a more open society, and it surely is. However, during the tribal times of Vietnam, homosexuality was not an issue. Artifacts from this era suggest that Vietnamese people, at that time, actively promoted sexual exploration and sexual intercourse, irrespective of heterosexuality or homosexuality, to find perfect harmony with nature. This changed with the arrival of the French, resulting in the state conceiving of homosexuality as an immoral practice. Nowadays, there are no laws concerning the persecution of LGBTQIA+ people. There exists tolerance to different forms of sexuality that deviate from the heteronormative perspective. However, there is still a journey to acceptance, people do not feel completely comfortable and safe to fully express themselves and show affection on the streets. However, this is something that is also present in different countries, in the West too, where there is generally a more tolerant attitude towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
The motivation for Maika Elan to create this photo project came after seeing an exhibition about LGBTQIA+ community of Vietnam. Subjects were only photographed from the back, with masks on or with their faces blurred out, as if they were hiding. This would create the illusion that they are not part of society. However, this visualization does not correspond with how LGBTQIA+ people are living and expressing themselves in real life. Therefore she felt the urge to make a photo series reflecting the actual situation.
She has photographed the couples in their own homes, capturing romantic and intimate moments. In the beginning, she felt as though she was invading and disrupting the moments. But after a while it became natural for both the couples and herself. The selection of the couples happened in a two-way interaction. She contacted some of them herself. But there were also ones who knew that she was planning to do this project and asked if she could photograph them. With this series, Maika wants the viewer to believe in the moments that are captured in the photos. To believe that these are real moments of interaction with real people. Therefore her selection for the series were the pictures that had the most untouched look and avoided the pictures in which people look ‘too good’.
About the artist: Nguyen Thanh Hai (born in 1986), also known as Maika Elan, is a freelance photographer born in Hanoi, Vietnam. Elan is known for her first project, The Pink Choice, that focuses on the personal lives of gay couples in Vietnam. In 2013 Elan won first prize in the Contemporary Issues category of World Press photo with The Pink Choice.
Check out Maika Elan's full body of work on Instagram @Maikaelan
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Our weekly themes always include three photo series by different photographers.
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Written by Noura Oul Fakir