On the internet, queer photographers are taking control of their narratives: Documenting their lives, sharing their work from behind the lens and offering up perspectives historically silenced. Photo sharing platform VSCO knows the importance of amplifying these voices, and we talked with five of their most popular LGBTQ+ creators on why art matters, below.

"Nobody can quite see the world like we do."

Why is it important for queer photographers to document the world?

Nobody can quite see the world like we do. It's important that we show the beauty of the world through our eyes and tell our stories through our art. I believe that one day the world will be fully accepting of who we are as queer people, and our art will be a reminder of how far we have come and the strength it took to get there.

How do you approach photography/ image-making?

My main goal is to bring the vision I see in my head to life, and create worlds that people can get lost in and find inspiration from. I want my work to be an escape for people as much as it's an escape for me to create.

What subjects inspire you most and why?

The subjects that inspire me most are the ones that just feel right. I can't explain it, but I know almost every photographer has pulled out their camera and pressed the shutter button without hesitating just simply because they felt compelled to. But if I had to choose I would say anything related to nature — there is something about the earth in its purest form that always inspires me no matter where I am.

"I think it's time for us to tell our own stories."

Why is it important for queer photographers to document the world?

Photography has been a white male dominated industry for a long time. They don't experience the queer world as we do, so I think it's time for us to tell our own stories — to have the queer community documenting themselves without the feeling of having our image explored for the benefits of the same people who oppress us.

How do you approach photography/ image-making?

I like to share the world and the people as I see them and I think I see the world as someone who's in love with it. I think there's a certain feeling of admiration on every picture I take. Photography ends up being a visual diary of my experiences transiting through the world.

What subjects inspire you most and why?

The peripheries of Rio and their people for sure. Ever since I moved back to Rio, reconnecting with my community inspired me to do all the work I'm doing today.

"Queer photographers, queer filmmakers, queer artists, and image-makers are and have always been a part of the world."

Why is it important for queer photographers to document the world?

We are present in it. That's the simplest answer — queer photographers, queer filmmakers, queer artists, and image-makers are and have always been a part of the world. It's only right that we document it, and in doing so, choose what is important, relevant and powerful.

How do you approach photography/ image-making?

As a queer Asian director, writer and photographer, I'm gifted with a perspective on the universe that's firmly rooted in my identity and experiences. In my stories, I follow humans that look a lot like the people I love and admire — drag queens and musicians, fellow artists and executives, the young and hungry people who seek to shape the world. I find them in spaces I hold close — behind the stage, in the crowd, living and breathing these New York City nights.

When I make an image, or tell a story, the first question I ask is, "Why does this need to be in the world?" And the second question is, "Is this good for the world?" Currently, I'm directing and writing a TV show called ALL I WANT IS EVERYTHING, which tells the story of an undocumented Asian girl who goes to a rave that changes her life. It's inspired by the real-life party collective Bubble_T, who are my chosen family, and often the subjects of my work. (Last year, VSCO and I teamed up to create a short hybrid narrative/ documentary on Bubble_T called Dancing On My Own.)

When I was writing the show in the early days of the pandemic in New York, I thought, we need this in the world. As Asian-Americans, as a queer family, we need to remember we were here, and we made something beautiful. And today, in the midst of a rise of anti-Asian violence, it is even more important to honor our heritage, learn our history and celebrate who we are.

What subjects inspire you most and why?

The young, the hungry, the striving, the ambitious, the dreamers, the wise and the joyful. I'm inspired by the qualities in people that I desire in myself — the ability to keep creating, to seek joy and to continue telling stories that are good for the world.

"Creativity does not happen within the usual or our comforts."

Why is it important for queer photographers to document the world?

Their significance in society stands up for the representation and empowerment for us all around the world to be unapologetically our authentic selves. Queer photographers give access to the lives, stories and culture of marginalized people that some may not have exposure to, and little-to-no understanding of. I perceive queer photographers as bridges for the experiences, spaces, faces and voices that need to be seen, heard and celebrated, as well as for the minds that need to be educated, expanded and inspired.

How do you approach photography/ image-making?

Creativity does not happen within the usual or our comforts, and I like to remain mindful of what I wish to emote and convey from the unique vantage point that I have, the resources within my reach while making the vision translate out into the world where others can connect to the imagery. It's a fun, candid yet intentional approach to blending the intimacy between self, what I observe and the shared experience that is created.

What subjects inspire you most and why?

Humanity, equality, education, gender expression, innovation/ technology, sciences, nature, metaphysics, spirituality, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology, astronomy, astrology, numerology, the arts, music, film and photography, creative writing, healing arts. The list goes on and on — the world is saturated in inspiration, but the subjects I mentioned are the areas in which I gather the most inspiration and apply to my creative process and personal life. Subjects and taboos that can provoke great transformation, stimulate my mind and imagination to expand my perception beyond what I've been taught about life, and how I should be experiencing it will always gather my attention.

"Now more than ever, queer people are being seen, shaping the world and dominating so many spaces."

Why is it important for queer photographers to document the world?

I believe it's important for queer photographers to document the world because for so long the world has been viewed through the eyes of heterosexual people. Now more than ever, queer people are being seen, shaping the world and dominating so many spaces. Not only is it for the progression of people as a whole, but one for queer individuals, specifically queer youth. We are the representation we've never had. Kids look up to us and see themselves and see the things they can do despite being told "No."

How do you approach photography/ image-making?

I think back to myself as a kid and envision the woman I wanted to be. When I do my makeup and shoots of myself, I'm healing young Lilith, manifesting her dream of self into reality. With every photo I take, her and I are that much closer to our dream. It's sort of like me allowing her to take control and guide me to a vision that always comes out so creative and precise. By making her happy I'm making my current self happy and in turn, the world.

What subjects inspire you most and why?

Being trans, I'm inspired by all the Black trans women and fems who live so unapologetically in a world that's so against us. Despite society's views on us or the hardships they have gone through, they continue to radiate so much grace and confidence. Seeing them accomplish so much pushes me to continue my journey through my transness. Each and every day I go harder because of them. Through my art I break rules and cross boundaries. I challenge the standards of beauty and womanhood because of their courage. They are my dream and I am theirs. How they inspired me is how I want to inspire Black trans youth. My accomplishments will not only be for myself, but for Black trans people as a whole. Together we'll rise against the odds.

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