Four photographers – Kuba Ryniewicz, Bex Day, Robert Taylor and Alia Romagnoli – feature in a new exhibition presented by Queer Britain and Levi’s entitled Chosen Family. Here, Ryniewicz tells us about the beautiful, personal series he made for it
Queer Britain, an organisation established in 2018, aims to open the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum in three years’ time. Marking the start of a three-year partnership with Levi’s – the storied denim brand will work with the organisation on opening the permanent site – a new exhibition presented by Queer Britain opens this week to coincide with London Pride entitled Chosen Family, which brings together new series by four photographers each exploring the concept. The photographers – Kuba Ryniewicz, Alia Romagnoli, Bex Day, and Robert Taylor – looked to their personal and local communities to create their portraits, which will be added to the Queer Britain archives once the exhibition has closed.
Poland-born Ryniewicz, who is based in the north-east of the UK and has shot for the likes of Dazed, Fantastic Man and Loewe, began with his immediate chosen family by photographing himself and his husband in their garden. “I’ve never really tended to photograph myself, it’s never been my thing. For this exhibition though, I felt it was important to show my face as I’m very proud to stand next to my husband,” Ryniewicz tells AnOther. “When I posted on Instagram images of myself and Jon at our wedding ceremony, I received private messages from young gays from Poland who said it was encouraging to see happiness and a lack of worry behind being a publicly visible gay man. I come from a Catholic family in Poland where sexuality has always been seen as a taboo subject, so coming out for many people can be a very difficult decision, and even somewhat traumatic. It’s great that our wedding photos can be seen as inspiring.”
It was important for Ryniewicz to base his series for Chosen Family in Newcastle: “I am often in London for meetings and jobs, where people seldom know of what the north-east has to offer. For me as an artist it is very important to show the place where I live – the city is my photo playground, where I have met my chosen family.” The photographer captured some of his best friends – “Jade and her girlfriend Lydia, who are obsessed with motorcycles, and Max with his new kitten and his visiting brother,” he explains – as well as others in Newcastle who have “created a beautiful chosen family within themselves”, like a group of local drag queens. The resulting portraits are warm and joyous, celebrating the close-knit queer communities local to Ryniewicz.
After the exhibition has been staged in London this week, the photographs by Ryniewicz, Day, Taylor and Romagnoli featured in Chosen Family will be added to the Queer Britain archives – which is a source of pride for Ryniewicz, who says that his work becoming part of Queer Britain’s permanent collection makes him “feel truly special, and extremely emotional”. “The political landscape of Brexit gives uncertainty in my ability to stay here, so it’s so lovely to know no matter what, there will always be a part of me in the UK – a positive take away,” he continues. “I hope my photos can inspire the younger generations who see the permanent space.”
Chosen Family, presented by Queer Britain and Levi’s, is at 9 Mercer Street, Covent Garden, from June 25 – July 1, 2019.