In this episode of #QueeringLockdown I am interviewing Cora Hamilton (they/them), queer picture taker, tattoo maker, teacher and Voices 4 Berlin activist, whom I met last year at the Queer Liberation March on Christopher Street Day. We caught up on living with parents during Quarantine, the intersections between tattoos and queer identity, and much more.
Francesco Ferranti: Hey Cora, can you first of all introduce yourself?
Cora Hamilton: Hey everyone! My name is Cora. My pronouns are they / them. I am a photographer, tattooer (@genderlessgemini), activist, and teacher normally based in Berlin.
Francesco Ferranti: What does #QueeringLockdown mean to you? How do you keep yourself sane and calm in these surreal times of isolation and self-distancing?
Cora Hamilton: To me #QueeringLockdown is finding ways to take your usual queer activities online. For example, I am focusing on organising digital campaigns for upcoming visibility and awareness days with queer activist group Voices 4 Berlin.
I’m quarantined at my parents’ house in Folkestone, Kent, after coming here for a quick Easter break which has turned into a very extended stay. I’m trying to balance my need to be productive and feel accomplished with slowing right down and resting.
Since graduating from Goldsmiths in 2017 life has been a bit wild so I’m making the most of my very privileged situation and pressing the pause button. I’ve been spending my time cooking, reading, drawing, painting, and making plans for exciting projects that will happen once it’s safe to see people again. I’ve been making sure to connect with friends daily, and to bring my queer communities into the online realm so as to continue supporting and loving on each other.
I’ve done some photoshoots over Facetime with queer friends as a kind of mini-series (‘Queerantine Diaries‘) to give a glimpse into what quarantine looks like to these people and how they’re coping. I’m trying to focus on the present, take it one day at a time, and not spend energy on thinking about the bad stuff for too long.
Francesco Ferranti: Can you guide us through your current project ‘Queer Berlin‘, selecting some stories to tell us?
Cora Hamilton: ‘Queer Berlin‘ is an ongoing project documenting, representing and celebrating queer people and identities in Berlin. Representation of queer people by queer people is so important. It started shortly after I moved to Berlin in late 2018 as a way of connecting with the kind of people I was longing to know but has now turned into some kind of a queer family photo album of all these beautiful people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
The first photo I took for the project was of Christopher Saint Laurent [black and white photo of man in a v flexible pose] after having participated in his voguing class. He needed new passport photos, so I proposed a swap – I would take his new passport photos if he posed for me. He dropped down into a surreal assemblage of limbs and in the corridor of that dance studio I took one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken.
Another one of my favourites is the photo of Orne and Ravel. This was taken on my birthday last summer during the first session of a tattoo that will cover half of Ravel’s torso. It was the first time I’d met Ravel, and he mentioned that he was still struggling to find a place to live. My flatmate was moving out later that month, so I waited until the end of the session to see if I liked Ravel enough to offer him the room. We’ve been living together since last summer and it is truly a blessing to live with an Italian who cares as much about food and cooking as I do.
Francesco Ferranti: Can you tell me about the genesis of your tattooing practice? You have recently started a project about trans/ gender non-conforming people and their relatonship with tattoos. What did you realise by interviewing your friends about this topic?
Francesco Ferranti: I started tattooing as a side hustle late last year and it’s already brought so many wonderful people into my life. My tattooer name is @genderlessgemini, which tells you everything you need to know about me. Tattooing and getting a tattoo are both very personal and intimate experiences, and this is the main reason I tattoo almost exclusively queer people.
The space needs to be safe and understanding for both of us – a friend of mine Luciel [photo of him holding up his shirt to show cute little tattoo of a face + leaves] who I tattooed says that he doesn’t get tattooed by cishet men because he doesn’t want them to leave an “imprint” on him. Over the last few months I’ve had some very interesting conversations with TGNC people about their relationship to their tattoos and how that affects their relationship to their bodies. This has been the source of inspiration for my new and as of yet unnamed photo series. For many TGNC people, relationships to the body are often difficult and complicated, and the act of choosing and adding tattoos contributes to positive body image and gives the person autonomy over their own body.
My friend Max [photo of person with short dark buzzcut] said ‘getting tattoos as a trans person is like colouring in your body so that it becomes what it is. Tattoos allow me to shape my body the way I want, whereas nature didn’t give me that choice’.
Francesco Ferranti: Let’s discuss queer activism. What’s your favourite memory with @voices4berlin?
Cora Hamilton: When we started to plan our action for Valentine’s Day, it was agreed upon that we didn’t want to contribute in any way to the capitalist, materialistic, cis-normative narrative of the day. We enjoyed the idea of a cuddle-in, but we wanted something that would radically challenge the usual direction that Valentine’s Day takes. The reputation of Berlin as a queer paradise often overshadows the fact that hate crimes against queer people here are just as high as other European capitals, and we wanted to highlight this on a day that typically sugarcoats the queer experience and drives the notion that homophobia is over because H&M had a same-sex couple kissing on their billboard! We staged our cuddle-in at Lustgarten (in English – pleasure garden) outside Berlin’s cathedral, where lots of passersby were interested in what we were doing. I think it was a perfect demonstration of what Voices4 Berlin do – we appropriated a globally celebrated day to highlight issues queer people face, all while maintaining a beautiful sense of community.
Francesco Ferranti: Shoutouts to 3-5 creatives who inspire you during this period?
Kreativ Kollektiv (@kreativkollektiv123) – an Instagram platform showcasing queer artists run by beautiful boy Luciel (he/they).
Nowhereland Tattoo Collective (@nowhereland_tattooberlin) – tattoo collective who are all bad ass bitches and have supported me in my tattooing career so much.
Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coraefhamilton/
Tattoo account: https://www.instagram.com/genderlessgemini/