A vintage typewriter, a protest sign, a string of pearls, a disco ball — these are a few of the props arranged to evoke a queer past on set for a photo shoot in the Los Angeles suburb of Culver City with photographer MaryV photographing exclusively on the Google Pixel 6a. The objects pay homage to LGBTQ+ people who were never given their due —unseen in history — but whose contributions to queer life are immeasurable. Those who have never had a major motion picture made of their lives the way Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Harvey Milk, and Elton John have. The overlooked heroes (often people of color) denied their full stories or who the broader culture wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge in their own times. These unsung queer ancestors feel almost present, as if they were joining us in spirit and not just in the hearts of the artists and activists gathered to evoke their essences.
On set is Elle Moxley, founder and executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which protects and defends the rights of Black trans women. Sporting faux fur and metallic eye shadow is musician Jake Wesley Rogers, whose glam rock style and queerness is both symbol of the future and a throwback to ’70s androgynous rock giants. In linen suit jacket and glasses is Special creator and star and Queer as Folk star Ryan O’Connell, who recently penned his first novel, Just by Looking at Him. In pearls and a mid-century era dress is actor, writer, and producer Dalila Ali Rajah, who is the curator of the Black Queer Joy handle online. She’s also a “witch,” a “fairy,” and a “mommy.” They’ve assembled to recall queer history, remembering LGBTQ+ trailblazers. They each have a person in mind they’re hearkening to. They’ve arrived from various backgrounds, but there’s a consistent lens through which they view queer history: storytelling.