Jeanette Spicer is a New York City–based artist and photographer whose work has been shown internationally and covered by The New Yorker and Dazed. In 2013, shortly after receiving an MFA at Parsons The New School of Design, NYC’s Pride celebration changed her life forever. On the night before the annual LGBTQ+ march and festivities, she met her then girlfriend while hanging out at Ginger’s, a popular lesbian bar in Park Slope. That personal experience, along with the chance to step out of her comfort zone by snapping larger-scale photos, made covering WorldPride 2019 a great opportunity for Spicer. We chatted with the artist about her photos of the celebration and her personal connection to Pride.
When did you first get interested in photography?
Jeanette Spicer: I started taking pictures of friends of mine when I was about 8 or 9. I was using a disposable camera, and I never had any kind of instruction. But for some reason, intuitively, when I had a sleepover, I would pull people aside to photograph them in a very one-to-one way instead of taking a party picture. So there was something going on there.
When did you come out, and what was your journey on that front?
JS: I guess the most “coming out” thing I did was, right when I was getting ready to graduate [from Parsons], I met someone. I was sort of always open but had always dated men. The night before Pride that year was my first time going to Ginger’s, the lesbian bar in Park Slope. I met someone, we hit it off and we started dating. So my coming out was mostly that relationship, where I was dating a woman—it kind of spoke for itself.
Do you identify now as a lesbian?
JS: Yes, super lesbian. [Laughs] Not queer. Lesbian.
Do you see your sexuality as connected to your work as an artist?
JS: Other than a few different projects, I’ve been mostly fascinated by the female figure and its representation, or lack of representation. In that my work shows the less-common perspective of the lesbian gaze—my gaze—it is certainly connected to my sexuality.
What were your thoughts when you got this assignment?
JS: I was very honored to do it and felt really excited but also a little concerned about what I was even going to shoot. Especially this year with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and 4 million people coming into the city that day—it’s not at all the way I shoot. I usually shoot very one-to-one intimate, quiet, out in the woods. So it was sort of like writing with your left hand.
Given the immense nature of WorldPride, what was your game plan?
JS: I decided to go so far against my comfort zone, to go literally into crowds of people and just photograph. It’s a really challenging way to work. So I wanted to go into the heat of the moment but also pull out these anonymous, intimate, very physically touching moments that you don’t normally think of as Pride where you’re seeing the float and the excitement and people yelling and drinking.
You were in the middle of the West Village, diving right into the heart of it.
JS: Sure was. I had never, ever seen it like that. My initial idea was to mix the daytime Pride with the nightclub vibe, which I think is interesting when you’re aboveground during the day and it’s bright and summer, and then you’re in this underground club where it feels like it’s nighttime in the middle of the day.
Which clubs did you choose?
JS: We were at the Monster in the West Village and also a bar called The Breakers in Williamsburg. That had more of a chill vibe at night, and I had a handful of friends there. I shot from about 1pm till midnight.
Were there photos that really stood out for you?
JS: The images that really touched me were the ones where I’m seeing complete strangers that I’ve never met touching [each other]. Any kind of physical contact really moved me. And there was the woman in the Monster who I think was in drag. It was all of these interesting masculine and feminine tones going up against each other. And the way we had this moment together. That, for me, was the most foreign and interesting, as I don’t usually shoot strangers.
There were some shots of your girlfriend too, right?
JS: There’s one in particular of her at the Monster when the sun was setting. That image was something more like I would take anyway.