Queer Atlanta Captured by Logan Case

In the last two decades we have witnessed an incredible progress in gay rights. The most important of these is gay marriage, and the normalization of LGTBQA people. Of course there is much work left to be done. But one interesting facet of this progress tends to be an underlying claim of respectability. It places two white gay men in sweater vests on a billboard and seems to say “Hey, look, we can perform normalcy as good as anyone else”. The problem this poses is that there is an implicit cost, that respect comes with the adoption of a suburban, almost nuclear, family. The truth is that LGTBQA folks live many various types of lives, not all of which fit comfortably into the non-threatening mold that has won them progress. Many fear or have experienced that this failure to conform has resulted in being perceived as not one of the “good gays”.  Atlanta is not full of “good gays”, instead, it is full of youth, many of them sexual or racial minorities who fled the surrounding conservative countryside.  According to Logan Case, “Atlanta is like a liberal Mecca”, Georgia State University’s massive scale offers them a route to Atlanta’s freedom, and as a result” much of downtown Atlanta has been overtaken by young people desperate to get out of Georgia’s conservative suburbs”. These are people, young and exploratory. They are finding themselves, and having fun. Like all youth they are not interested in settling down, they are here for the vibrancy we all yearn for in our twenties. Three years ago, when Logan moved to Atlanta, he began what has become a vast and impressive photographic series. He documents the effervescent lives he sees around him, lives deserving of respect and celebration just as much as the sweater vested couple. Logan Case captures Atlanta’s queers.

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“Quickly captivated by the diversity and youthfulness of the city” Logan couldn’t help but notice “the interesting setting this presented, and wanted to find a way to capture it in the most authentic way possible.” He was by no means an amatuer photographer, he “owned some nice cameras that took beautiful images,”, however he quickly found that “showing up to parties with those cameras made everyone think they had to pose for a photoshoot.” Still, Logan was determined to capture the unique scenes that played out nightly around him. After a little while he had a stroke of genius.

Logan began taking disposable cameras to the parties. He “didn’t want anyone asking to see how the pictures looked or want anything retaken,” thus he “turned to disposable cameras” and it worked. Soon barely anyone “was afraid to be themselves in front of [his] disposable cameras”. People saw them as “nostalgic” and because of their non-digital nature people didn’t censor their true selves.

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Of course, they know that these photos had a potential to end up online, but most “figure at least with a disposable camera it’s not easy or instant.” Plus the cameras proved durable and allowed Logan to enter into close quarters with his subjects, event when something wild was going on. You can really see that in the next photo, as Logan rushed in to capture the joy of a moment that could easily of ruined a more expensive camera.

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Soon he started uploading the pictures to his blog. They were met with widespread approval, mostly from young folks who could relate or perhaps fantasize about the frenzy of unabashed life on display. His images quickly developed a following, today that humble following numbers over 18,000 followers. When asked about his widespread success Logan replied casually, “People seemed to connect with my pictures, which was very gratifying.”

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Looking at Logan’s photos, it is hard not to understand where this following comes from. How could someone not relate to the honest intimacy, the shy downcast glance of the man as his smirking companion pulls him close. Queer or not, the viewer will recognize an intimacy they know well, that resides in the fond memories of the flighty emotions of youth. There’s a beautifully romantic candor to it all. Stylistically, this is only enhanced by the imperfections that result from the use of Case’s disposable cameras. They produce photos that appear like snapshots, detached from the past with their discolourations and over saturations. His photos say, this is how it was, but not quite perfectly how it was. They are honest in their imperfect reproductions.

“I’d like to think my disposable pictures are unique because they capture the hectic but fun world of diverse young people adjusting to city-living.” They do, they are. Case’s photos open doors for the viewer that cannot be opened merely by a visit to Atlanta. As in the above photo, there is what is on the street, in broad daylight, and then there is what you can only know if you pack up, move there, and find for yourself.

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Of course, powerful queer photography is nothing new. The photo of David Kirby’s death, and Rosalind Solomon’s photography is likely recognizable to the photo viewing public, or indeed the public at large. Likewise, we could talk about Andy Warhol’s polaroids or other big names. However, few photographers capture the intimate joy of it all. Likewise, so much photography of queer people centers on their sexual or gender identity. Case captures the joy, and shows his subjects as people, three dimensional personalities living out their youths.

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Not all of Case’s photography is portraiture. For instance, the disco ball photo below  has no distinguishable people in its frame. Yet it says something about them all the same. It is, for me, impossible to view this photo without feeling the glimmering hope that acceptance of Atlanta brings. Here in the dark, among the spotlights and the beats seems to be a shining example, of fun, of the radiant stillness in time and space that the disco ball seems to hold. It centers and it shines. It says, here I will shine over you, come be free.

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This next photo below is one of the very few that include Atlanta’s imposing skyline. The big office buildings and art deco towers appear prominent and on full display behind our two young subjects. But they do not feel alien or oppressive. The sky is open above them, and the lighting and the disposable camera have given to them a hopeful warmth. In a way the two young people appear apart of the skyline. The standing boy’s head another tower, physically a part of the city. The buildings do not bear down upon them, instead they appear protective, home like.

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There is something to be said about the power of Case’s images. The comments his blog receives are not only complementary, they are powerful statements of fulfillment. People do not merely see representation and documentation, they receive sustenance. As one viewer put it, “I’m in love with these pictures. I needed this in my life. I love the rawness and the emotion and the feel of all of these.” His inclusionary eye, which does not corrupt or pervert is without a doubt liberating for queers searching for validation of their lifestyles in a society still so full of shame. When Case takes a picture of a lap dance, or two girls kissing, it is different from the vast majority of photos of similar subject matter. The photos do not feel as though they are of the male gaze, sexualizing the scene for a hetrosexual man’s benefit. Nor do the photos feel as though they are exotisizing the events. Instead the events appear, however beautifully framed, as simply the events. This is what went on, Case forces none of his own perceptions onto them.

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There is, however, also a mystery to Case’s work. It comes from the fact that a singular photo can never convey the totality of the complex events and surroundings within which Logan places himself. The smoke billows out, otherworldly, into the frame, obscuring the faces and bringing with it many questions. Who, what, where, when, why, how. None of these questions come close to being answered, and thus, the photo, like many of his, takes on a perfect charm of mystery.

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Sometimes the mystery lies in the familiar aftermath; the broken glass. We know the result, we can guess a cause, but we aren’t provided enough information to say anything for certain. Instead, we are left, like the people surrounding the spill, somewhat ambivalent. This happened, I don’t know why, but it happened, and will you look at that.

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It’s not all sultry sex, and mythologized cities. Some of Case’s most profound work lie in the ordinary, the gendered restroom sign leading into a home’s bathroom. A comfortable party of lounging friends. Lives are multifaceted, and Logan Case allows for an exploration of all of it.

 

Logan Case, 21 years old, Graphic Design student at Georgia State University, you can see more of his work on his tumblr page.

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