The INHALE photo series embodied metaphors of breathing. We use breathing as a way to gauge if someone is alive or not. The intimacy of breath reveals a person’s vulnerability as well as their power. Our breaths can be strong, they can be sharp, they can be shaky, and they can be soft. The queer community at U of T breathes and exists in this space. INHALE portrays individuals within these communities as tangible, as existing in both domestic and outdoor spaces and refusing to be erased. The photos from the series were displayed on June 16, 2017 for the very first time along the walls of Hart House’s Debates Room.
All photos by Albert Hoang.
“After every inhalation comes an exhalation. In the midst of the struggles that come with integral parts of my identity, it is important to breathe. Inhale, and exhale. As I breathe out, a sense of calm comes over and affirms my sense of self. I’m here. I am.” – Jess Fernandez (they/them)
“Growing up in a country where there wasn’t any proper sexual education, I was constantly shamed by strangers and loved ones for my gender expression. The way I talked, walked, and the friends I made were things that people used to judge me. Today, I’m staring those who hurt me in the eye because I take pride into growing into the woman I love – my mom, every day.” – Barron Pan (he/him/they/them)
“Looking at the photograph from the other side of the lens is new to me. As this was the first time I have been the subject instead of the artist, I find myself reflecting on how this piece emphasizes a different perspective. Stepping back and seeing myself upside down is not a position I find myself often reflecting on, and I end up reminiscing on the past year. Specifically, the photo encourages me to analyse how significant changes in life can feel both jarring and organic. Hoang’s piece captures me laying on the concrete floor of a greenhouse surrounded by plants and running water that is not pictured. Even so, viewers can understand this sense of being in a state of nature as the subject lays on a concrete floor. Finally, Hoang’s use of framing and lighting immediately draws the viewer to my eyes, and at the risk of sounding cliche, breeds an intense, beautiful sense of intimacy and familiarity that I have never seen myself display in any portrait.” – Gabriela Garcia (she/her)
“This image is a ghostly version of myself. I’m looking at you, but I’m also looking beyond you. The bed of dead leaves contrasts with the star field pattern on my dress, for I am both earthy and heavenly. I’m not breathing easily, but I’m not gasping for oxygen. I breathe in fear and breathe out love. With every breath, I queer the air. Breathe.” – Iris Robin (they/them)
“What’s been captured in my photo is my dysphoria. I’ve never been comfortable with images of myself because the way I look makes me feel like my life is worthless. When this photo was taken I had done hours of preparation to look my prettiest and I still couldn’t bring myself to look at the results. However, as sad as it is, it does also represent how far I’ve come and how far I have yet to go in my journey to self-acceptance and actualization. So, in that, INHALE has captured my hope and resilience in spite of the hardships I face because of who I am.” – Reilley Marston (she/her)
“I am vulnerable. My gender identity has been a dimension of myself that I have both loved and denied. I’m beautifully femme, but that pathway of self-affirmation was marked with faux-masculine masks. The photo captures the ambiguity between my inner-self and outer reflection – the struggle to be visibly queer and stand defiantly and proudly in public. I will not resign myself to a shadow. I am vulnerable, but I’m much more fierce.” – Julian Oliveira (he/him/they/them)
“When I saw this picture, what I thought I saw was exasperation. At the time of shooting I was feeling beaten down by the rain, which was relentless in trying to smudge my make-up. I feel like this feeling and this emotion mimic the feelings I have when I experience ignorance and bigotry. I don’t want to spend my life being a walking target nor a social justice advocate. All I want is to exist and be allowed to exist however I wish without fear and I am done feeling exasperated. I’m ready to emerge from the rain and embrace the rainbow.” – Nathan Gibson (he/him/they/them)
“Exhaling after taking a drag of my cigarette, a peaceful moment. Smoking brings me great comfort, it’s a habitual ritual that I grew up with – watching my family smoke their stresses away. I continue that, inhaling and exhaling my smoke into the world.” – Teddy Williamson (he/him/they/them)
“Being queer and Nigerian had been a struggle for me for the longest time. The myth that it is un-African to be queer had been force fed to me, and I struggled with both sides of myself. Was accepting my queerness meant losing my African heritage? Looking at this picture made me remember that struggle. I feel like this picture really captured the feeling of being caught in the middle, the vulnerability that comes with that and the strength it takes to pull both together.” – Oreoluwa Adara (she/her/they/them)