Galvanised into action by the unfolding horror of the Orlando shootings, My People My Tribe is the collaborative passion project of Sydney locals Josh Feeney and photographer Brenton Parry. Driven by a long-held desire to shine a spotlight on the diversity of Australia's LGBTQIA+ community, the creative duo's ongoing photography series showcases the raw personal experiences and naked bodies of a growing number of Australians.
“I wanted to share the open and honest stories of LGBTQ+ people. Too often these days it seems people either have to love or hate something so intensely, especially on social media,” says Feeney of the project.
“So the aim was to strip all that back with the hope of uniting the wider community and embracing our differences.”
Hoping to share the stories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and other people of diverse sexualities and genders, the ambitious project has already seen one portrait and personal story shared online every day since its inception earlier this year.
“The series shows that while you may not have found your tribe yet, there is a community out there waiting to receive you with open arms. By showcasing the lived experiences of real LGBTQ+ people, My People My Tribe endeavours to create media that reflects who you are.”
At a time when trans bodies have been idealised by the (albeit largely positive) visibility of women including Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, the trans participants of My People my Tribe offer a refreshing and diverse alternative to the often ableist depiction of trans bodies being embraced by the mainstream media.
“I think there are lessons to be learnt from all of our trans participants. Trans people seem to be having a moment in pop culture right now,” reflects Feeney.
“Ultimately I think the biggest lesson overall is to listen. So often we speak or act in a certain way because we think it's the right or polite thing to do rather than just listening to the person that is in front of us.”
“The recurrent theme I heard in the stories of our trans participants is that they are more than their trans-ness. That there are so many other dimensions to each individual than just one facet.”
Shot by Brenton Parry over an intensive three-day period, the project relied entirely on members of Sydney's LGBTQIA+ community volunteering to speak openly and be photographed naked. While Feeney admits that the turnout of participants were predominantly white and male-identifying, he emphasises the importance of representing people of colour within the community.
“We cannot preach diversity and inclusion without doing our very best to include as many diverse participants as possible,” Fenney tells me.
“We actively tried to include as much diversity as we could in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and sexual identity, but we could only shoot the participants that volunteered to be involved. As such, the first one-hundred participants skew largely white and more male identifying. Their stories are no less valid but it is definitely something I wish to improve upon when continuing the project I the future.”
Having recently moved to Los Angeles, Feeney is now hoping to continue his work on the series abroad, before curating a physical exhibition to be shown in Sydney from early next year.