Fashion researchers team up with LGBT+ youth charity for powerful photography exhibition
23 August 2019
The portraits will be shown in central Manchester until September 4
A compelling photography exhibition that celebrates how young LGBT+ people in Manchester express their identities through clothes and styling will be on display during Pride weekend.
Portrait Youth is a long-term project led by fashion researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University that explores the personal and collective identities of diverse groups of young people in Greater Manchester through styling and dress.
The latest series of portraits of 13-20-year-olds from Manchester, produced with LGBT+ youth charity The Proud Trust, will be displayed on hoardings on Aytoun and Chorlton Street until September 4. The exhibition has been sponsored by Jack-Arts.
Portrait Youth worked with the group from the Proud Trust on a ‘Wear Your Identity’ workshop, where participating young people bring along a collection of their favourite clothes and accessories. These can reflect their personality, identity or just be their favourite items.
Working alongside fashion academics Jo Jenkinson and John Earnshaw from Manchester Metropolitan, participants were interviewed about how their items reflect who they are, encouraged to style their own outfits, and take part in a professional photoshoot led by photographer Heather Glazzard.
One participant said: “I am very critical of myself but once I got into it and Heather [the photographer] showed me the pictures, I thought ‘oh my God, I actually think I look pretty’, and it was such a nice feeling to not talk bad about myself and be like, that person is me and they look good.”
Another said: “I have always loved androgyny and just completely blurring the lines between gender roles, and I think clothes and fashion is a very obvious and orderly way to show off the space in between male and female.
“And I think I like clothes because a lot of people in my day-to-day life read me as female, but when I wear my stereotypical masculine clothes it’s, kind of, like a way for me to tell people, ‘Hey, not everything is how you presume it is, don’t just presume on this because I look a certain way. I put these clothes on as a way to tell you, you know, think again’.”
Chloe Cousins, from The Proud Trust, said: “The workshop and photoshoot was such a welcoming and confidence boosting space for young people to explore and celebrate the ways that they express elements of their identities through their fashion.
“It was a great space to informally critique and challenge some of the ideas about who is allowed the label of 'fashionable' and who is 'worthy' of being photographed in this style. We live in a world filled with photos of 'celebrities' and fashion images on billboards, magazines and online, and rarely are we allowed to believe that those people can be us, they can be everyday people - and that those people in the images are everyday people too.
“Watching the young people's faces beam after talking with the team about the items of clothes they had bought along and what they mean, and after seeing their images on the camera, were really beautiful moments."
Jenkinson, Principal Lecturer in Fashion at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “It was such a privilege to work with the young people at the Proud Trust. They taught us a lot about the complexities of identity, and how fashion and dress can be used to support, disguise or celebrate identities of youth. Heather has done an amazing job of capturing the young people, as they see themselves, in these beautiful portraits.”
Glazzard said: “I found the workshop so uplifting, it reminded me of why I do photography, to empower the subjects and give the power back to the people I’m photographing.”
It was such a privilege to work with the young people at the Proud Trust. They taught us a lot about the complexities of identity, and how fashion and dress can be used to support, disguise or celebrate identities of youth
Previous Portrait Youth projects included a series of portraits of young people with autism, which was displayed in April at Manchester Art Gallery for World Autism Awareness Week; and a 2017 collaboration with Manchester Youth Council which culminated in an exhibition at Central Library.
Portrait Youth is a long-term initiative and aims to work with further diverse youth groups in the Greater Manchester Region. The project team encourage ideas for further collaborations and can be contacted on Portraityouth@mmu.ac.uk.