Res is a Brooklyn-based photographer who has been taking photos since attending Smith College in the mid-aughts, where they discovered an interest in art and identity. A 2017 graduate of Yale’s prestigious MFA program, they’ve had their work shown in galleries in NYC and LA and published in W Magazine and The Paris Review.
We asked Res to capture the City’s June WorldPride celebration, for which they focused on the Dyke March, the Queer Liberation March—which recreated the original Pride March route from 1970 and was held the same day as this year’s main procession—and the Queer Liberation Rally that followed in Central Park. Afterward, we talked with Res about their work and the challenges of shooting historic events in an intimate style.
When did you originally get interested in photography? Res: I was painting when I was in high school, but when I was 16 I saw Catherine Opie’s photograph Self-Portrait/Cutting. That was the first image that made me aware of photography as something that transforms the subject. It wasn’t something that I knew I could do, so it took me a while to get into it.
What kind of work did you pursue? Res: I studied photography at Smith College [in Massachusetts], so I would say that the work was really academic to start. I was looking at larger themes like masculinity or queerness. I realized that’s what I wanted the subtext to be, to elevate the photography. I was really into exploring intimacy and how it reveals itself formally through obscuring.
After you moved to NYC, was your work related to your queer identity? Res: I think all of my work is related to my queer identity. When I was in my mid-20s, I photographed my community of friends and family. A conversation about queer intimacy and queer family always comes out [of my work], but it’s not necessarily an overt gesture.
How did you approach shooting these major Pride events? Res: I’m not a documentarian, and there were hundreds of photographers there to document it. I really wanted to make portraits and have remnants of the [Pride] March. It felt important to spend time with some of the people who were there—to pull off to the side and capture these moments of rest to really isolate some individuals and let some of the ephemera, the things around the March, take on meaning. The March is moving but there’s all these things that are still, and that was the kind of focus for me.
Were there any images you felt especially proud of or connected to? Res: I think it’s about the whole body of work. Especially when trying to make work that speaks to something that’s as complex as Pride is. I really feel it’s important to have a combination of portraits and images of the things found on the street, like the barricades, the legs.
Was there a certain style of shooting you wanted to use? Res: Formally, the one thing that was important to me was that these images contained shadow. These Pride marches exist in bright sun, which is complete exposure. But I think it’s important to remember that 50 years ago the gesture of walking out into the street was an incredibly radical act, and it still is. In order to get at that complexity I felt the images had to contain both light and dark. Pride is about walking out of the darkness, no longer hiding in the shadows, and into the the street.
Was there a different feeling this year at Pride with Stonewall50 and WorldPride? Res: There were a lot more people. At the events I attended there was a real focus on situating Pride in its history and radicality and its political urgency. There was a lot of conversation around how communities are being represented. And a greater conversation about what these marches mean—they mean something different to everyone.
Have you photographed Pride before? Res: No, that was a first for sure. I made some work at the Memorial at Pulse [in 2016 at Pulse nightclub Orlando, Florida] that was so profoundly huge in the hearts of the queer community. But the way I photographed it was very subtle and quiet and there were no crowds in them. It was somewhat related to this in that I definitely pulled people off the track and tried to create these more intimate, quiet moments that will always be in conversation with the images that we have of the events.
How were you able to do that at these massive events? Res: I walked the opposite way of the March, so as the Liberation March was moving north I was moving south to find traces of the parade. With the Dyke March, I was kind of pulling people off and photographing them at the beginning and end, in Bryant Park and Washington Square. I don’t generally photograph big events because of the wildness of it. It’s very overstimulating for my eyes. It’s an incredible challenge.
Was that your biggest challenge? Res: The hardest thing was worrying about it beforehand. It’s always leading up to it that’s hard. There’s so many people, it’s so hot. But once you’re there, you’re making work and you’re seeing things and you’re excited. You have to work so quickly that you can’t overthink things. That was a pleasure.