Prints for Queers is a print sale raising money for Rainbow Railroad – the charity helping members of the LGBTQIA+ community escape countries where they’re subjected to state-sponsored violence and persecution. Organised by London-based photographer Matt Ford, with photography by Ford and Maria Ridgway, this project features exclusive portraits of mainstream and underground queer performers, activists, and creatives including the likes of Lucia Blayke (founder of Trans Pride), and Ella Vaday, Virgin X, and Crystal from Drag Race.
“The overall message for the images is one of empowerment for the queer community and queer bodies. I wanted people to feel and look sexy and good about themselves,” Ford tells Dazed. “The subjects represent an elevated take on modern gender expression, sexuality, and creativity.”
The idea for the print sale initially came about when Ford became aware of what he describes as “mini-epidemic of homophobia” during a series of local incidents of “queer-bashing” while, on the news, the Taliban’s renewed presence in Afghanistan represented a terrifying threat to the wider queer community living under this regime. Not only did he feel a sense of urgency to raise funds to help those at risk, but he also wanted to send a message of unity and a call to action. “By celebrating and acknowledging the freedoms we have to express ourselves in the UK, I hope it serves as a reminder that not every queer person in the world can do this and we need to look out for each other.”
“The subjects represent an elevated take on modern gender expression, sexuality, and creativity” – Matt Ford
Ford’s enduring memory of the eventful Prints for Queers shoots was when Miss Teri Boxx (a “sexy messy drag chameleon”) and Cyro (a “non-binary drag king/thing”) were in the studio. “Terri was being shot as Cyro watched in awe. As soon as it was Cyro’s turn he commented about how he never had any nice photos and Terri was going to be an impossible act to follow. But as soon as the first few photos were taken, Cyro said coyly, ‘Oh, I look fucking hot!’ And he did. You can see the confidence in the following images,” Ford recalls. “And if anything that happened during this project can sum up the overall goal of the collection, for me, it’s stories like this... of feeling empowered. I hope that’s reflected in them when people come to see them all together.’
The print sale, which is now live, will be accompanied by an exhibition at East London’s self-proclaimed “notorious big queer pleasure palace” Dalston Superstore. Tonight’s launch kicks off at 7.30pm and promises the presence of many of the individuals featured in the portraits, along with a projection of behind-the-scenes footage captured on set by Maria Ridgway and Jake Turner. “It’s not a private view,” Ford emphasises. “Any of Dalston’s regulars are welcome to come and join the celebration.”
Take a look at the gallery above for a glimpse of some of the prints available in the print sale (including one-off Polaroids).
You can buy prints from Prints for Queers or donate to Rainbow Railroad here now. The exhibition launches tonight (November 18) at Dalston Superstore from 7.30pm-9pm and the installation continues until January 18 2022