Leo Quirk is a trans and genderqueer photographer who focuses on the intersection of gender diversity throughout history, its erasure, and contemporary reclamation. They recently received an Innovations in Imagemaking award from the Society for Photographic Education for the series Transcendence. Recent exhibitions include Thesis Exhibition: Transcendence at Indiana University, Grunwald Gallery, the Photo Emphasis show Break a Leg January 2019, and a permanent display at the Indiana University LGBTQ+ Cultural Center. Quirk studies with James Osamu Nakagawa and Elizabeth Claffey at Indiana University. They receive two bachelor’s degrees in July: a BSoF in Photography and a BM in Bassoon Performance from Indiana University.
Since the beginning of time, my people have walked the earth, greeting beings and spirits alike. We are the sacred, spirited, the healers, seers, the shamans, oracles. Born between worlds – male and female – we form our identities settled in mystery and power. Some communities and forces try to erase us – our presence, myths, and stories alike. Few people today know the histories affirming and supporting our presence. Other communities not only accept, but honor our presence, and our ability to walk between worlds. Matrilineal communal societies, in the times before accumulation of wealth and class societies, worshipped deities of mixed and plural genders, and many worshipers followed in their footsteps. The Mahu of Hawaii, the Nádleehí of the Navajo, the Hijra in Southeast Asia, the Whakawahine and Whakatane of the Māori; they all descend from millennia-old traditions of reverent spirituality surrounding those who blur boundaries.
Many of these traditions, legends, and identities are irretrievably lost, ravaged by colonialism. The natural gender diversity prevalent through most of human history has been forcibly reduced to a perceived binary, reinforced by everyday language and customs. Gender diverse people continue to resist, reclaim, revive, and create anew the pieces which were stolen. Restoration and restoryation is uncovering and retrieving countless stories and histories, reaffirming our presence. Given the prevalence of such histories and myths in thousands of cultures around the world, I can only imagine that my ancestors too had stories connecting me and my people to the spirit world and our fellow in-between kin. In the spirit of myths – not false stories, but ever-relevant ones – let these images create not just a body, but a figure of transcendence.
To view more of Leo Quirk’s work please visit their website.