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Jesse Glazzard, Self Portrait (2023), Testo Dairy
Jesse Glazzard, Self Portrait (2023), Testo DairyPhotography Jesse Glazzard

Jesse Glazzard’s emotionally-charged portraits of his chosen family

For Love or Nothing brings together the most ‘real and honest’ work from the photographer’s recent archive

It’s the opening night of Jesse Glazzard’s debut solo show For Love Or Nothing, at Dalston’s 10 14 Gallery. With revellers spilling out of the gallery and vaping on the pavement outside, it feels more like a birthday party than a private view – and Glazzard, the de facto birthday boy, is swamped by well-wishers all night. A celebration of his several years inhabiting and documenting London’s queer scene, many of the faces milling about the space can either be glimpsed in the work on display, or in the photographer’s back catalogue. 

Some of the images depict languid landscapes with muted, almost painterly, colours. Here in these bucolic scenes, trans folks are reclining in nature like the bathers at Asnières – revelling in rare moments of leisure among their community and away from the cis gaze. Elsewhere, compact black-and-white images are tacked up on walls. Among them are stark examinations of changing bodies across time and transition. Others cast a probing glance over intimacy and what it can mean: from domestic routine and romantic flourishes to the implicit understanding between even the most casual of queer acquaintances. 

Mere days before the show, Glazzard was selected as part of the British Fashion Council’s New Wave 2023. It’s a meaningful moment of acknowledgement for an artist whose identity as a trans, working-class person has rarely been welcomed in the fashion world. But at this stage, how could the industry not notice him? 

A longtime Dazed collaborator, the past few years have seen him bring his now-signature analogue aesthetic to shoots with Chris and Mia Khalifa. He’s also released a steady stream of zines – from the pre-pandemic party antics of The World Before Sanitiser to the carefree instances of gender euphoria documented in Tender – that have tracked his interest in conveying queer vibrancy in moments of scrappy, spontaneous hedonism just as much as meditative moments of calm. There have also been collaborative projects, from the house party-cum-exhibition Porridge with director Nora Nord and the film and exhibition Hän, exploring the Finnish queer community with Nord, designer Ella Boucht and creative producer Bryanna Kelly.  

To celebrate the photographer, described by curator and gallerist-advisor Pacheanne Anderson as a “natural born artist and people person”, Dazed spoke to Glazzard about the rush of his first solo show, losing the “naivety” of his younger years, and documenting queer lives away from internet screens. 

It’s been four years since your Queer Letters series. How has your work and your approach evolved in that time? 

Jesse Glazzard: In 2019 I was probably a little bit naive. I also have a tiny bit more money, which is nice. My work has changed a lot since then, it used to feel way more commercial and now I don’t care about that. I also work in the darkroom where I didn’t before. It feels a lot slower with my personal work, which is kind of nicer. Before it felt like I had to get things done so fucking fast and it was a bit much. 

You say that you used to be a bit naive – what were you naive about?

Jesse Glazzard: When I first started, I was like, ‘I’m gonna say yes to every fucking editorial and just have no money at all.’ Now I say no to basically every editorial because often there’s no money, it’s not interesting, they just want to do ‘diverse’ subjects. I’ll only say yes if it’s exciting. I was naive about wanting to be in the fashion world because you can get taken advantage of if you’re a minority.

“Now I shoot in black and white because I just want to get to the subject and I’m not interested in distractions through colour” – Jesse Glazzard

With that in mind, how did it feel to be recognised as one of the British Fashion Council’s 2023 New Wave?

Jesse Glazzard: This past year I haven’t felt super connected to fashion, so it felt good to have been chosen.

One of the things that stands out in your work is the emotional charge, and the easy connection you always seem to develop between you and your subject. Who’s been your favourite person to shoot?

Jesse Glazzard: Chris – our relationship felt really natural and it was like I was just shooting one of my friends. We really wanted to escape the shoot and just hang alone which felt real and honest.

It’s funny you say that, because your personal work often casts friends and acquaintances. 

Jesse Glazzard: A lot of the people I cast are people I feel like I can trust and who can trust me. In some ways, one day I’d just like to make a chosen family album. The community feels really big and overwhelming sometimes, but it connects for me in photography.

Even as recently as a couple of years ago, the word everyone would use to describe your work was ‘tender’. Nowadays, your work still feels familiar and close but it can also feel almost confrontational within that.

Jesse Glazzard: Now I shoot in black and white because I just want to get to the subject and I’m not interested in distractions through colour. I was thinking about the big image we have in the show, it’s on the flyer. It’s really uncomfortable but it’s also not I look crushed in a way. My work has become a lot more real and honest: intimacy doesn’t have to be tender. 

What are your thoughts on what queer representation means now?

Jesse Glazzard: When I first started I was like, ‘it’s about representation!’ But actually, that is such an illusion because you can’t represent everyone. Even when you google ‘queer imagery’ all that comes up is queer joy or close-ups of scars. That’s not really that interesting, though – there needs to be layers. Also, queer joy is pissing me off. It’s been co-opted by brands and we should have both, both queer pain and queer joy.

“Queer joy is pissing me off. It’s been co-opted by brands and we should have both, both queer pain and queer joy” – Jesse Glazzard

We’ve spoken before about what it means to have a physical show, where your images don’t live online but on the walls of a gallery. Why is that IRL aspect so important to you?

Jesse Glazzard: When you put queer imagery online and just give it to everyone, it devalues it, and I think it devalues the people in imagery as well. They deserve to be more than just an Instagram post. Queer people have become clickbait – we just give everyone everything and don’t hold anything for ourselves. It’s also about safety and about my subjects not being everywhere online – when a trans woman’s image is on a gallery wall, it’s not so directly traceable back to her than when it’s published online.

Would you say that you’re more cynical about the internet as you’ve gotten older?

Jesse Glazzard: It’s a double-ended dildo. It’s so good that the internet exists when we’re young but when you become older it’s a bit like what is the point in this? Having something physical also feels important for archiving and not just becoming part of a void. 

What does the future hold for you? Are you hoping to continue working on more physical, and fewer digital, manifestations of your work?

Jesse Glazzard: I’d like to be part of more group shows and possibly work on a book. I’ve been obviously shooting for years now and the work feels like it needs to live somewhere physical. Longer-term, my ambitions would probably be to have an agent, get more commercial work so I don't feel a constant financial struggle, work on scripts and move more into moving image.

For Love or Nothing is open at 10 14 Gallery until 30 November. The last day of the show marks the launch of the series’ inclusion in The British Journal of Photography.

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