“SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives”: Veronique Charlotte discussing ‘Gender Project’, a social photography project about gender identity

Veronique Charlotte, ‘Gender Project’, 2020. Photo. Courtesy the artist.
Veronique Charlotte. Portrait taken by Jake Buster, 2017. Courtesy the artist.

Veronique Charlotte is an Italian artistic director, photographer, social activist.

Born in Rimini (1989), raised in Milan, settled in London, she moved from fashion and editorial photography towards Creative Curation, Visual Activism and Social Justice Arts.

Her personal work is introspective, it focuses on the body in relation to the social environment and shapes the thread of human connection. She firmly believes in the power of teamwork, foundation of the whole Gender project Experience.

Crossed paths with Veronique at the opening of Gender Project at Ride, a cultural hub in Milan’s Navigli area, in October 2020 before Lockdown. Collaborating with Veronique hugely inspired the concept of SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives as she prompted a meditation on the necessity of building a community and a safe space for marginalised folx in these times of uncertainty and despair. ‘Gender Project‘ started as a nomadic project to capture and give space to all the hues of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, merging the photographic element with audio recordings of the encounters between Veronique and the people who answered the call-out.

Installation Shot ‘Gender Project’, Milano, Ride, 2020. Photo taken by Gabriele Massidda.

To me, Gender Project in Milan was more than an exhibition, featuring panels on diversity and representation in media and fashion, a wall of emerging artists such as photographer Fabio Samela, performances of burlesque artist Ella Bottom Rouge and drag artists such as Daphne Bohémien, Croce , La Chicca Official and Lo Zingaro from Toilet Club Milano, and the launch of Lorenzo Seghezzi‘s spring summer collection Queer Asmarina.

The aim of ‘Gender Project‘ is to reach 10 world capitals with a total of 1000 portraits, 100 in each city, “seeking to enhance the idea of fluidity, promote intersectionality and establish active and inclusive networks”.

Installation Shot ‘Gender Project‘, Milano, Ride, 2020. Photography by Gabriele Massidda.
Installation Shot ‘Gender Project’, Milano, Ride, 2020. Photography by Gabriele Massidda.
Lorenzo Seghezzi. Queer Asmarina, 2020. Photography taken by Gabriele Massidda.

Francesco Ferranti: How has your penchant for photography developed? What’s storytelling to you?

Veronique Charlotte: The passion for photography sparked when I was little, fascinated by the photos of the great reporters, the real way of telling moments of everyday life and beyond through images. I define my portraits as photo storytelling, the camera is basically a tool, and people create the image.

Francesco Ferranti: Which photographers or other cultural icons have inspired you the most and why?

Nan Goldin, Misty And Jimmy Paulette In a Taxi, NYC, 1991. 695 × 1015 mm. Photograph, dye destruction print on paper mounted on board. Repost from Instagram.

Veronique Charlotte: On top of everyone, I can say Nan Goldin for sure.

Francesco Ferranti: What’s ‘Gender Project‘?

Veronique Charlotte: Gender Project‘ is a social photography project, a space opened to all of those who are happy to be part of this journey and to all of those who want to share emotions, be open to discussions and make connections.

1000 STORIES divided into

0100 PORTRAITS for

0010 WORLD CAPITALS with

0001 GOAL EQUALITY 

Francesco Ferranti: What does Spectrum means to you?

Veronique Charlotte: Spectrum to me means a range of possibilities, the acknowledgment of a new set of visibile gender identities. In Optics, Spectrum is used to describe the rainbow of colours in visible light after passing through a prism. To summarise, Spectrum is Awakening.

Francesco Ferranti: Which photos have you selected for SpectRoom: Fluid Narratives and why?

Veronique Charlotte: It was not easy at all to select 2 images out of the huge ‘Gender Project’ ’s archive, simply because every single encounter and story is important and meaningful in itself. 

I chose to speak about these two encounters, making sure that the names of the people involved are kept anonymous, as they kind of embrace the journey of this project and give me a balance of the spontaneity and hardships of these two years. 

Veronique Charlotte, ‘Gender Project’, 2020. Photo. Courtesy the artist.

The first portrait is of a young woman, just of age, who tells a very simple, curious, positive yet hesitant story: “I am a girl, and so I have to like boys? I don’t know who I am and who I like, I will like to discover myself avoiding judgement, without the fear of making mistakes”.

Veronique Charlotte, ‘Gender Project‘, 2020. Photo. Courtesy the artist.

The second portrait is a story of courage, self-acceptance, gender confirmation, of accepting who we truly are from the moment we were born.  A reminder not to hide in the closet, a statement that is often discriminated against, mocked and attacked, while it should be accepted, normalised, and embraced. We, as humans, are constantly on a journey of self-growth and self-discovery. Nevertheless, when we discover who we really are, we hide from other people because we realise that humans are capable of good but also bad things. 

This portrait and encounter mean a lot not only to me, but to many others. Let’s then learn art from kindness and harmony!

Francesco Ferranti: Instagram has been censoring black, queer, plus-sized and gender non-conforming bodies employing a murky and abusive shadowban. You started a petition, which can be signed through Gender Project’s Instagram bio. Why is Instagram blocking this type of content and how does it affect your artistic practice?

Veronique Charlotte: The work of artist is to inspire and break down the barriers of stereotypes, and it does so through the eyes of the visitors.

Gender Project‘ is trying to establish networks of active and inclusive emotional support. The project pushes against the need to classify and requires simpler fluidity. The goal is to go beyond linear classifications, instead enhancing the notion of spectrum, freeing it from any censorship.

Nudity in the art world is not something that goes against nature; far from it provides a cultural empowerment. In a historical moment like the one we are experiencing now, free will of expression in the art world is a necessity.

Too many artists and too many communities have been suffering marginalisation for too long.

This petition is a representation of artistic emancipation that goes against any type of abusive censorship relating to the woman’s and feminine body.

For that, we call on Instagram and ask the platform to stop deleting all the pictures containing nipples perceived as feminine. We also want Instagram to commit with us to fight against abusive signals perpetrated against LGBTQIA+ and feminist artists, activists, sex workers on their platform. 

To find out more about the implications of censorship on the queer community and the importance of queer visibility, tune in to the Discussion on Art, Censorship and Queer Visibility in collaboration with @queercultureclub , Tuesday 2nd March on Zoom. Free tickets on Outsavvy.

Francesco Ferranti: What are your hopes and dreams in a post Covid universe? 

Veronique Charlotte: I can’t wait to see people dancing again,

Watch the documentary below:

Credits: Camera – Veronique Charlotte, Video Editor – Melania Buono, Subtitles – Valentina Selvetti

Follow Gender Project on website, Instagram, Clubhouse and visit the shop

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