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Ezekiel, “Group Bath”, Bliss (2020)
Ezekiel, “Group Bath”, Bliss (2020)Photography Ezekiel

Ezekiel’s photos of queer joy, sex and liberation

The photographer’s ongoing photo project Bliss distils moments of sexual freedom and intimacy

Without denying all the harrowing, cruel aspects of life, photographer Ezekiel uses the camera as a means of preserving and disseminating the joy, affinities, and elevating moments that enlarge our capacity for tenderness. Following on from their photo series Empathy, the London-based Filipino photographer and filmmaker has created Bliss, an ongoing project that now spans almost a decade. “It explores joy, liberation, and sexuality through the lens of a queer immigrant who grew up in the UK,” Ezekiel explains. “Essentially, it’s a love letter to life, and the hedonistic pursuit of an artist trying to make it through our tumultuous political climate.”

Whether candid moments on the beach, naked embraces and entwined limbs, nude bodies illuminated by the morning sun, or friends getting ready for a night out, Ezekiel’s images are infused with the sense that we are being invited to join in a private moment between friends or lovers. They radiate togetherness and connection. “In the past, queerness has often been depicted in quite a melancholy light, we see and read about the struggles of trans people throughout history and how hard LGBTQ+ people have had to fight for their rights,” Ezekiel tells us in a conversation over email. “I wanted to depict nothing but queer joy, sex, liberation, and all the great things in this life. Essentially, I want to look back at Bliss and think, ‘Wow, what a great life I’ve lived, despite all the hardships we all faced.’ It’s a reminder not to take life too seriously and to really bask in the moments when you feel blissfulness, even when sometimes it is difficult to do so.”

“I want to look back at Bliss and think, ‘Wow, what a great life I’ve lived, despite all the hardships we all faced’” – Ezekiel 

Beginning the project when they were 17, Bliss continues to evolve as it charts the stories of the photographer’s “innermost circles”. Looking back over the work as a whole, it’s possible to trace the course of adolescence through to adulthood. But the trajectory isn’t always a smooth progression and there are momentary regressions and diversions along the way. “One obvious change visible in the images would be my friends and me as we get older,” Ezekiel says, admitting, “although we do still act like kids when we’re with one another.” Another transformation apparent over this expansive body of work is the development of Ezekiel’s’ work itself. “The way I shoot and handle the camera matures along with the subjects. I can see how my style has progressed, I feel like there is more intention to the way I shoot now and I’m able to capture moments more clearly. It probably helps that I’m not as crazy as I was when I was younger, I’ve definitely laid off the booze a bit more and don’t just blindly shoot anything.”

Following in the footsteps of artists such as Nan Goldin, Ezekiel’s work is primarily about documenting life as it’s lived and the loving community they’ve gathered painstakingly and incrementally about them. Taking pictures has become part of the fabric of Ezekiel’s everyday life and their camera is an extension of the moment itself, rather than an intrusive presence. . “I often have my camera in my bag with me, so I’ll try and shoot as and when the perfect moment comes by. It’s usually during a special moment when I’m surrounded by the people I love most There definitely needs to be good light too, it’s how I get the signature golden glow… the sun setting on Stone Circle at Glastonbury, my friends are fucking about on the beach, or after – or sometimes before – a good shag.” 

Ultimately, Bliss is, for Ezekiel a means of communicating joy in its more pure and unadulterated form: “I want to convey a sense of freedom and carefree-ness; a ray of light that the viewer sees and feels too.” Take a look through the gallery above for a selection of some of Ezekiel’s favourite images from the project.