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Faces of Pride dives deep into LGBTQ+ identity

Community celebrates grand opening of Faces of Pride, June 6 at KCT

Cranbrook kicked off Pride Month at the grand opening of the Faces of Pride photography exhibit at Key City Theatre on June 6.

Crowds of spirited revellers dressed in bright rainbow colours gathered to see Joel Robison's latest work, a collection of photo portraits of local LGBTQ+ people and allies. Robison launched the exhibit last year to celebrate gender and sexual diversity in the community, and to create a space where people could be proud of who they are. After positive public review, he decided to bring it back for another go.

"We live in a world that is really divided," Robison said, as he addressed the audience in the theatre auditorium. "We have a lot of reasons to disagree with each other, or not want to listen to each other. Pride gives us the opportunity to ignore all that, to take all those bricks that build walls that keep us apart and to turn it into a road that we can walk on together; to learn from each other, to celebrate each other, to hear the stories of why we exist, and the things that make us connected and unique. I think that's the beauty of a project like this."

This year's exhibit had a more serious introspective theme to it, compared to the joyous celebratory tone of the first collection. Each portrait had a double exposure effect with two overlapping images of the same person with different emotions. Looking at the portraits, it is possible to see a multitude of feelings on their faces: happiness, laughter, love, wonder, contentedness, bliss, sadness and uncertainty. 

Biographies beside the portraits introduced the people in the exhibit, with candid stories about pivotal life experiences that shaped their worldview and identity.

A person who embraced their truth, so they could be a positive role model for their children.

A participant whose encounters with death made them see the world differently, leaving them without closure, wanting nothing more than to have one last meal with the person they lost.

A woman who was inspired to live her truth after suffering a serious injury, and spending time reflecting on the world during her recovery.

Someone who found a safe haven and refuge in Canada after emigrating from a less accepting country.

The exhibit gives the viewer the opportunity to see the humanity in each person, and to connect with them through shared experience.

Alyssa Quick was one person who took part in the project. They found out about it through their friend, who had participated the previous year, and thought it was good way to honour their difficult journey and the community they are apart of. Quick has lived in Cranbrook for 15 years and didn't come out until their 30s.

"I grew up without acceptance for the queer community and it's important to me to show others in the community that it is something to be celebrated. I want to be able to be brave and be authentic," they said

"I feel proud to be part of it. It's a really neat community and I'm happy to be able to find them. I know that it hasn't always been an accepting place in the East Kootenay and so it's nice to see some movement forward and some people to celebrate pride," they added.

Robison said that he was pleasantly surprised with the community's response to the project.

"Last year, when I photographed the project, I was nervous. I felt a duty of care to each of the people that I photographed, because I was not ready to see them be put in a place where they would be taken advantage of or treated disrespectfully. I'm the first to admit, I was wrong. I had no reason to feel that way because Cranbrook showed up in a beautiful way. It showed up in a way that I never would have thought it would," he said.

Attendees enjoyed complimentary food, and adjourned to the theatre after the opening reception to see performances from comedian Laura Piccinin and Kootenay musician Bella Cat.

Piccinin turned uncomfortable and awkward experiences into comedic gold, recounting her own experiences coming out to family and friends, and navigating the confusing world of religion and dating.

Bella Cat's smooth and soulful voice filled the auditorium with lyrics that spoke to the queer experience, of hiding one's identity and true feelings, and learning to love and accept oneself.

The Faces of Pride exhibit will be displayed at the Key City Theatre until July.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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