First exhibited in 2013, Faces and Phases 2006-2014 is a portrait series of South African lesbians, targets of discrimination and hate crimes, despite twenty years of democracy. This project, published as a book last September, can be seen as a kind of “visual activism.” It was started in 2006 by Zanele Muholi, who was moved by the loss of two young friends to HIV. (One had also been the victim of several assaults.) Muholi hopes to help black South African lesbians be more represented, and enrich the nascent visual history of a community which has, she says, been long ignored not only by the country’s media, but also by the gay rights movement that began in the 1990s. Taken over the course of eight years, these 250 portraits, each more poignant than the last and accompanied by moving testimonies, are a convincing statement of the life and struggle of the subjects. Because Muholi herself is a part of this community, her work is inseparable from her own history. Therein lies the power of her photographs: she displays a sensitivity with the subject which only an “insider” could possess.
Faces and Phases 2006–14