In May and June of this year, JeanPaul Paula and Florian Joahn travelled to Brazil to experience the São Paulo LGBTQ Pride Parade 2018 and the Milkshake Festival, which originated in Amsterdam. (LGBTQ stands for ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer’.)
Although the São Paulo Pride is the world’s biggest gay pride parade, a recent study showed that the number of LGBTQ deaths as a result of violence reached a peak in Brazil last year. At least 445 LGBTQ Brazilians were killed in 2017 as a result of homophobia, says the LGBTQ human rights movements Grupo Gay da Bahia.
Paula and Joahn met various people in São Paulo’s LGBTQ community, whom they styled and photographed on the roof of the apartment where they were staying, in the centre of the city. The resulting portraits show, above all, their strength and unique self-expression; according to JeanPaul Paula, they hardly needed any styling at all.
The portraits that the duo made in the setting of São Paulo have been combined with studio portraits of both leading LGBTQ performers like Richie Shazam Khan and Linn da Quebrada and inspiring people in their own environment. One portrait, of drag queen TAYCE wearing a fur coat and a flower garland, is an ode to Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992, USA). She was an American LGBTQ rights activist, drag queen and transgender who was one of the founders of the first gay pride parades in 1970.
The title of the exhibition, Y'all Better Quiet Down, is a quote from Johnson’s fellow activist, drag queen and transgender Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002, USA), who was among the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance. Together with Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group that offered shelter and support to young homeless drag queens and transgenders. During the New York City's Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally in 1973, she told the audience “Y’all better quiet down!” when they booed her. During her subsequent speech, she spoke fiercely about the fact that she had fought for gay rights, but that now the most marginalised group, transgenders, were being abandoned by the gay community.
Through their work, JeanPaul Paula and Florian Joahn make it clear that the Pride is more than a merry parade – it is still a symbol of a worldwide struggle for equal rights for everyone, irrespective of gender, sexual preference, or gender and identity expression.
JeanPaul Paula (1986, Curaçao) and Florian Joahn (1990, Germany) regularly collaborate as a creative duo. In 2017, their joint project This. My Body. was part of the group exhibition Magical Mystery Tour in Kunstlinie Almere Flevoland (KAF).