Healing is at the heart of Dustin Thierry’s work. His projects stem from probing the internal questions he is asking of himself, as well as the external questions he asks of the world. In his approach, Dustin embodies the fact that portraiture itself is a relationship: his gaze is loving, and the result is restorative and generative for himself, his community, and society at large.
Dustin was born in Willemstad, Curaçao in 1985, and at age 14 he moved on his own to the Netherlands. His first project, Dreaming Above the Atlantic (2015-ongoing), is an intimate portrait series of people of Caribbean descent living in the Netherlands. Stemming from a personal craving to reconcile and reconnect with his own identity, the project grew into a much needed exploration of the multiplicity of Caribbean experiences in Europe. Their richness is in their intimacy; they are told from within.
His second project, Opulence (2013-ongoing), followed the suicide of his brother, a young polysexual man who dreamed of escaping Curaçao’s strictures and homophobia to follow Dustin to Europe. In his grief, Dustin began documenting the LGBTQ Ballroom scene across Europe. Through this, Dustin was imagining and experiencing the community his brother would have found if he had made it there, while finding a community for himself in the process. The project is dedicated to his late brother, and its wide ranging success is both homage to his legacy as well as a fight to beautifully make visible a resilient and inspiring community that faces relentless repression and violence. Opulence has grown into a fluid, ever-expanding, living archive of feelings, gender expressions, and LGBTQ identities across Europe. The tender portraits are unadorned, raw, deeply human and, of course, opulent.
Dustin has exhibited widely. Opulence was exhibited as part of ‘The People’s Parliament of Rojava’ at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2018-2019) and was exhibited as a solo show at Foam Photography Museum Amsterdam (2019). Group shows include: Rencontres de Bamako: African Biennale of Photography in Mali, the preeminent photography event on the African continent (2019), where Dustin was the first Black Dutch Photographer to participate, Lagos Photo Festival in Nigeria (2019), Aperture Summer Open: Delirious Cities and Labs New Artists III at Red Hook Labs in New York (2019), Photo Vogue Festival at BASE Milano, where he also exhibited at Leica Galerie (2019), and the Encontros da Imagem in Braga, Portugal where he was a finalist for the Portfolio Review Award.
Awards include: Decade Innovation Award by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the United Nations (2017) the Selection Of Dutch Photography award (2019) of which Dustin was the first Black winner, the British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Humanity award judged by Magnum photographers (2019).
His photographs have been published in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Magnum, Vogue, fluter, Blau Magazine, Glamcult, Vice and Der Greif.
He was selected by the British Journal of Photography as One to Watch (2019) and Foam Talent (2020). He was a finalist for the Villa Noailles Hyères ‘35th edition’, Somfy Photography Awards at Paris Photo (2020), Joop Swart Masterclass (2020) and The New York Times Portfolio Review (2019).
Opulence is currently in production as a new solo show at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (opening late May ‘20) as a group show at Open Eye Gallery: ‘The Time We Call Our Own’ in Liverpool (opening May ‘20) and at the ‘35th edition’ of Villa Noailles in Hyères (opening April ’20).
Upcoming projects will take Dustin to Africa and back to the Caribbean.