Documenting the opulent Ballroom scenes of Europe

My current project ‘Opulence’ is an ode to my late brother and all people from Afro-Caribbean descent, that still are not free to live and express their sexuality to their fullest.

To this day homosexuality is strongly stigmatised and condemned within the Caribbean community. Also, Black people from the former colonies and the Caribbean islands in the Netherlands are increasingly radicalised and objectified. This project seeks to break out of this dichotomy by portraying these subjects in unadorned, raw yet graceful portraits.

During the spring of 2013 I started documenting the Ballroom scene in Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan and Paris. ‘Houses’ organise vibrant meetings that offer emancipatory possibilities of expression that relate to gender and/or race issues in a trustworthy environment where fashion and attitude mix with mutual understanding.

Houses provide a source of family nurturing that oftentimes a lot of kids don’t get at home. LGBTQ+ youth of color are some of the most structurally vulnerable sectors of the world population. In the contemporary Ballroom scene in the U.S and E.U., most LGBTQ+ people of color are working class or poor, and disproportionately suffer from racism/white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia, and dispossession, exclusion, and marginalisation in their communities of origin.

More specifically, LGBTQ+ youth of color are disproportionately vulnerable to unstable housing and homelessness, violence, mental health problems, suicide, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.

Being honest and sincere I managed to gain access to this world of wonderful and sensitive people, avoiding fears of exploitation by the sensational approach of mainstream media. The black and white photography refers to the urban underground atmosphere of the previous century.

The project records my attempt to build a living archive of feelings, gender expressions and LGBTQ identities of the Black Caribbean diaspora in the Netherlands as a testimony of the vitality and longevity of the Black LGBTQ community in The Netherlands and the Caribbean.

Several prints are enhanced with UV-visible ink: curatorial decisions which gesture towards the experience of concealment and invisibility yet to be overcome by portrayed subjects.

This is an excerpt from the work. Please get in touch for more information.

Selected exhibitions
  • 2019
  • Photo Vogue Festival: ‘A Glitch in the System: deconstructing stereotypes.’
  • FOAM 3H: ‘Opulence’.
  • Recontres De Bamako: Biennale Africaine de la photographie.12ème édition.
  • Der Greif – Guest Room: John Fleetwood.
  • Econtros Da Imagem: What Now?
  • Red Hook Labs: Labs New Artists III
  • Queer Identities in Europe, Queer Festival Heidelberg
  • Eyes on Robert?, Holland Festival
  • Aperture Gallery — Annual Summer Open: Delirious Cities.
  • FFN curated by Koos Breukel
  • Der Greif – Dancing in Peckham.
  • 2019
  • Fotokroniek #63, Pakhuis de Zwijger.
  • The Politics of Representation, World Press Photo.
Selected publications
  • 2019
  • Financial Times: Life & Arts.
  • The New York Times: The Look.
  • Metropolis M: Opulence.
  • It’s Nice That.
  • LensCulture.
  • Glamcult.
  • 2018
  • HUCK magazine.

Catalogue of Opulence, total 49 images