Benjamin Wolbergs’ vast and lively anthology seeks to redefine queer representation

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Photo: © Bettina Pittaluga.

Through the lenses of over fifty different photographers, New Weird Photography traverses a heady mix of identities, experiences, mechanics and aesthetics to department “one-dimensional” perceptions of queerness

Growing up in Bavaria throughout the 80s and 90s, Benjamin Wolbergs viscerally recalls the way in which that traditional beauty criteria and perceptions of masculinity made him feel: pervasive imagery of handsome, chiseled, muscular men that toss a perpetual shadow by himself pubescent body. “I couldn’t accept, much less embrace or even celebrate,   my individual way of looking, ” claims the art director and editor, now based in Duessseldorf.  

Wolbergs’ latest anthology, New Queer Photography: Focus on the Margins , richly – and, at times, raucously  – rejects these ideals; specifically their implications for those whose lovemaking and gender identities deviate from the status quo. Today, while popular culture might have us all believe that Western society has embraced the queer community, much of its visibility still lies in the hands of white, cisgendered men. But still, around the world, many LGBTQ+ individuals live with the constant threat associated with violence, persecution, imprisonment –  even capital punishment.

© Manuel Moncayo.

© Rafael Medina.

Across 304 web pages, New Queer Photography traverses a vast and heady mixture of queer identities, experiences, characteristics and aesthetics: fleshy, distorted bodies glisten with sweat and semen; trans lovers steal quiet moments of tenderness, while working-class Black and brown drag performers dominate frames. Through the lenses of over 50 contemporary photographers, we see that artwork, above anything, presents the seemingly infinite world of possibilities for playing with sex, sexuality, beauty, and wish; and crucially, that each queerness and love look different for everyone.

In Italy, Alexandre Haefeli captures male bodies writhing in surrealist, lavender-hued fields. 6, 500 miles away in Vietnam, Maika Elan’s soft, modest images depict queer lovers engaging in an act which is paradoxically rebellious: relaxing. Bradley Secker’s rough and shadow-rich polaroids amplify the noises and experiences of asylum sex workers in Istanbul, while Julia Gunther joyously celebrates Black lesbians defying homphobia and apartheid within South Africa.  

© Alexandre Haefeli.

“The most important thing was to tell these stories through the counterfeit gaze, without any preconceptions, minus reproducing stereotypes or any clichés”

© Melody Melamed.

© Alexandre Haefeli.

“The most important thing, ” states Wolbergs, “was to tell these types of stories through the queer gaze, without any preconceptions, and without recreating stereotypes or any clichés. ” The project took him four years to produce plus, after being rejected by countless publishers for its specific nature and “narrow” marketplace, nearly didn’t happen in any way. But it comes at just the correct time, as conversations about queerness continue to bloom, and more and more voices – bolstered in large part by social media –  come to the fore in order to separate barriers, push boundaries plus make history.

“I wanted to focus on the margins associated with society, sensitising people to all the injustice, discrimination and oppression that is happening, ” muses Wolbergs. “But I also want to celebrate pure joy, freedom and the unique creativity that will – under different situations – can also happen within the margins. ”

New Queer Photography: Concentrate on the Margins by Benjamin Wolbergs is published by Verlag Kettler, available to buy here .

Flossie Skelton

Flossie Skelton joined British Log of Photography in 2019, where she is currently Commissioning Editor across awards, Facilities and partner content. She does freelance writing, modifying and campaign work across arts, culture and feminism; she has worked with BBC Artistry, Belfast Photo Festival and Time’s Up. She is furthermore an illustrator, with art work published in Marie Claire, ES Magazine, Sunday Periods Style and the Guardian.

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