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Jac Lynch- Butch on Butch

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride So Bochum, which was a photo exhibition that was held at photo space gallery in Courtney place for a couple of weeks in January in February 2015. It came out of [00:00:17] a spark of an idea, [00:00:21] sort of from mid 2014, where I became aware of the work of Megan Allen, a photographer from San Francisco. Makes been photographing butchers for the last year or so, and she's I think her exhibition has been traveling around the states. And when I saw it, some publicity about it came through on Facebook, Sunday morning is you do not quite awake. So it come through and thought, are already committed to something Wellington, like that. So why not, you know, so to make myself fully committed to that, I immediately set up something on Facebook and put out the word to people that if they wanted to be involved in this in some way to get in touch with me. And when I first was putting out that publicity about it, I couched it in the way of people who self identified as if they, if they wanted to be a participant, every photo taken, then, you know, would would talk about that and get that done. And I also made the mistake of approaching a few people up front about it. And that that was an early learning for me, where people say, Why are you asking me? [00:01:49] Oh, wow. So you're asking people directly? And then so you mean, their reactions are being asked about something so specific? [00:01:57] Yeah, yeah, it was, it was a ICF. We do for his watch. And, and I thought that some of my friends did too. And then I quickly found out that they didn't necessarily identify is in the same way that I did. I did. So that was, there was something new for me. And it was good, because it lesson was learned pretty pretty early on. And so I completely changed my approach and made it much more around. Yeah, around emphasizing if you self identify, and I didn't approach people after that. [00:02:35] So did any of those original people end up in the exhibition? Are those ones that you originally approached? directly? Did you leave those ones and then, and then just went to the people who self identified and volunteered themselves? [00:02:47] It's right, a big head, big. [00:02:51] None of the original ones were in it. [00:02:53] The ones who I approached No. [00:02:56] But but because they didn't see themselves is an the way that I was couching it, which was a few Butch basically come be part of this. And I was approaching them along those lines, and they weren't seeing themselves like that. So when it was around, if you self identified as Butch, then then that that was that was open to people coming forward. But But what made it even more open? Was I, I also said, if, if you, if you feel you're seen as Butch, okay, and then you know, you might be interested in this as well. And that actually got probably half the people who ended up being an exhibition where people who came into it because they didn't necessarily label themselves as anything, but they knew and had experienced for a long time that that other people saw them as such. Yeah. [00:03:56] And I just want to take you back a bit to when you initially saw the other exhibition that or the was it Mel Allen, did you say, Meg Allen, sorry. And it came up on Facebook, that jump between seeing that and then wanting to do your own project? What's been your background and history in photography? Or that that kind of that because that's quite gentle to see that to see that if someone else and think I could, you know, Wellington could have something like that. So can you tell us a bit more about where you come from, [00:04:27] of sort of dabbled and photography. for a few years now, I'd hit an exhibition at photo space before, a couple of years earlier. And that was that was from photos I took while I was traveling in Asia. But basically, I was stuck in a motel room on Koh Samui for about 10 days, and really had nothing, nothing to look at other than the orange walls of the room in the TV set. So I ended up taking photos of it. And it became an exhibition. Yeah, James sets for space, he's a, he's a great guy to talk to, if you have ideas for things and they appeal to him, he's, he's, he can be really supportive. So he knew of me because I'd done this other exhibition with them. So when I went back and talked to him about the Bochum, Butch idea, and showed him some of my first portraits that I was taking, yeah, James was really enthusiastic, and like the story of what was happening with it. My background around the subject area would be my self identity as as a butch person. And the, the, for me, that's the idea that is a masculinity that's not doesn't necessarily conform with, with the social norms around gender roles, gender identity, and so on. And yes, it is. So make Alan's work appealed to me, and I wanted to, I just thought, why not? We can explore that here as well. I didn't really think it obviously, from what I've already said, I didn't think it through that much before I put the idea out there. But you know, things evolve, and I just kind of feel Wellington's, this sort of town, where if you do have an idea, and you can get people excited about it, then you can just make it happen. And that's pretty much how I approach life here. So and it worked. It worked. Yeah. [00:06:34] And so you've said you use social media to get people to engage, and that you were then waiting for people to come and volunteer themselves for it. What happened after that? Because I know I saw the exhibition. So some of the photos that you that you were showing. And I was interested that it seemed like you picked locations or they picked locations, maybe that linked was special to them or links their personality. So can you tell us like the that process of how you decided where to take the photos and how it was all arranged and things like that? [00:07:07] That's right, once, once someone got in touch with me about it, and we would would meet and have a have a chat about why they wanted to be part of the project. And it was up to them to decide where they wanted the photo taken, what sort of props if that's a word for it, they wanted around them that were meaningful to them. And for that, to help tell the story in the in the pictures, what was also really important to the project. And I think part of why people enjoyed it a lot. As it said, each of the participants was asked to write a narrative for themselves. Hundred and 50 words maximum, and to have that go alongside the photo. And when I put together a booklet for the exhibition that had both a photo in the person's story next to it, in it, I felt that gave a good balance and kind of a bit more of a wraparound then about the person as an individual than necessarily people just seeing what was what how they were portrayed in the photo itself. [00:08:18] Okay, yeah. So people's the subjects I don't know if that's the language you're using, sorry, [00:08:22] what would you use? What would you use that? participant participant sorry. [00:08:28] They Yeah, so they had a voice within it as well. So as well as the photo, there was also their voice that was included with it. [00:08:34] Yeah. And following the exhibition, pride got in touch in of head, maybe a dozen interviews with the people who are in the exhibition as well. There were 20 photos taken all together, in 19 ended up going up, and the exhibition itself at photos surveys, and I've interviewed a think around a dozen of the people who are in just to get even more of a story about them and their experience of the butcher identity and, or how they've been seen as Butch, what that means for them and the lives. And and the broader story about the lives is people. [00:09:19] What's been the reaction to it, both within the queer community and also maybe outside of the queer community, because I know at the time, there was an article in the DOM post, wasn't there? So what's been the reaction? Yeah, within those kind of two areas, [00:09:34] just before the exhibition started, I think that's because James sent out some publicity to the Dominion post, they got in touch and ended up running a full page feature with some photos from the exhibition in it, and also an interview with me about it, and about Butch is it is an identity. And so that was there was never a dull I got quite a lot of feedback from people that, you know, it was a nice thing to open, open up for OBD breakfast versus I think it was called I'm being Butch was support how they, how they headlined it in the in. Yeah, me sort of leaning nonchalant. wall in the, in the gallery. Yeah. So that was that was great publicity for it. And then I had a, I had a Facebook page, which is still there. And that was, people have been sharing that page. I think they've got 200 likes on that. So as giving people up to date with how the project itself was going, as I was taking photos, and then once the exhibition was up with it, and the interview started happening, I was able to put it up through that as well. got really good positive feedback from people about when they came along to the exhibition we had a big opening instead was a very high hot evening and January. But it was picked out. It was great. It was like an event. Loved it. And it was, was really helpful that I was able to sell the booklets because I wasn't selling the photos, they've they've all gone back to the participants. And it was a deliberate thing. I don't want to sell someone's portrait like that. But selling the booklets helped to finance some of the project. And I also got help from photographer Jenny O'Connor, who's behind the visible at 60. project. And Jeannie is a great mate of mine was really helpful in terms of me looking at the photos with her and getting some sense of you know how they could be created together? Or whereas mucking up things? Or, you know, those sorts of things. Because I'm an amateur photographer, I'm certainly not professional. So it was, it was great to have a mentor. Yeah, to help me out there. As well as be able to talk to it, and talk about it with James going through it. [00:12:07] So what would you say? I guess that there's two parts to this question about what you've learned from doing the project. So did you learn anything new or different about the concept of birch? Or did anything surprise you about the concept of Butch? And also did you learn what have you learned about doing projects like that, to setting up projects like that and following them through? So that's two quite big questions, actually. So the question, yeah. And did you learn anything new? Or were you surprised by anything around the concept of birth and people's discussions around that? [00:12:41] It was interesting that people wanted to go straight into the Butch FIM. Okay, dichotomy. And that's that wasn't where this was going, or what it was about. People even said, or why don't you take, you know, why don't we do one of themes? And what do you do when a themes? Well, I'm not theme, you know, so if that's something that people who identify as theme, want to explore the, the the base wants to do it, and I'm not going to do that. So it was much more about something that, you know, related to me as a person. What I, what I really learnt was, there was one of the participants. Molly, MAHANEY talk, she, she heard about it, and she approached me, she said, Look, I've talked with some people would like to be part of this event, she was one of the ones that I had approached me on, and then she backed off, but then she came back to me, she came back to me after she talked to some of your friends and said, I don't identify as butcher relate to that, I understand it. But I'm YNE tour. And she was the first person I took a photo of. And so it's, I understand that the the idea of it has some quite wisdom, meanings to it. And that culturally, it's not something that necessarily transfers across, you know, all sorts of different cultures. However, having it is a very open invitation to people means that they were that people were able to come into it on their own terms. There was there was an assumption that everyone and it was lesbian. And that on diversity seed, that that was something that you know that [00:14:45] people watch it. So the assumption from who What do you mean, where did that assumption come from? So you weren't assuming that everybody that approached was lesbian? But do you mean everyone that did that approach? Do you think we're lesbian? [00:15:00] Many, many do identify sleepiness as well. But there are certainly other identities there. The invitation wasn't around people sexual orientation, as was around when would the term botch. So, you know, I was hoping they'd be a real range of people who would get on board. And [00:15:27] there was a real range, but it wasn't quite as broad as I want to. I would love to see some gay guys, [00:15:34] for example, but I wasn't putting it out in that way. Yeah. And and so having a conversation, for example, with the dorm post, I didn't go into huge amounts of depth with with journalists, just because I didn't feel like the public was really going to be able to go there and an article around it. Yeah, so is there was was kind of that was kind of tricky. There was an assumption that everyone's at least being in the norm. [00:16:06] Yeah. So do you mean when people look at the exhibition and look at the photos, there's an assumption there that everybody when they're looking at the photos, there's an assumption that they're looking at lesbians, and that the exhibition is at least an expression? Okay. I would simply go down and track of saying it's queer expression, but that wasn't what I was capturing in it. Yeah. And so in terms of it as a project, what you look back now, what what are you pleased with? What would you do differently? In terms of it? Yeah. As a how you constructed it as a project? [00:16:40] Is my personal learning and life is it I need to think a little bit harder, wake up, have a few more coffees before I necessarily hit those? those buttons on Facebook? But you know, that I've met from other things? Still in that one? And that, that it's that yeah, that that just that just do it, get your ideas? I'm not a professional photographer. I managed to get exhibitions and and galleries? You know, it to me, it's like, it's the point was to have a community event to have something that why not have it? Why not have it in Wellington? You know, it's people were talking about me gallons work. It's great. You know, it's back to an idea. So you know, give it a go? Yeah. It's, it's all it all it makes. For me, what it does is just give me confidence to do other things. Yeah, nothing was perfect getting it. But But I did it. And people were on board with it. And I think people got a lot of people got something good out of it. [00:17:59] And I guess that obvious kind of next question is, have you got thoughts about what your next thing project might be? Or even where, if this might have sparked something in other people? Could you see a logical height? Where could it go next? I mean, I know it could go anywhere. But you What would be your thoughts about about what next? Whether it was you or somebody else pursuing that? [00:18:21] Yeah, I would, I would hope that if people were seeing it is, is, as ideas of all why don't we do this for this group? You know, why don't we do this around these identities or, and so on, that people just decided to do it? And go ahead, no, it's great, get, get this stuff out there. And, you know, get the discussions going, if that's the that's what the basis of it is, but get people involved. It's, I've got ideas for some other projects that I want to do that are still portrait related, but quite different to this. And so I'm going to do it. There are the community for more community based projects that I'm also kind of thinking about. And yeah, Want to get off the ground. [00:19:13] And as we kind of come to the end of this interview, and this discussion, is there anything that you would like to kind of tell us all that maybe I've not asked about in terms of the project, that sort of thing? Oh, yeah. And looking back, I would like to just kind of make that clear, or tell people a bit more about certain aspects of it. Is there anything you wish you had been asked? [00:19:36] If people [00:19:38] if people have got ideas, but they feeling like they don't really know quite how to go about it? I'd be, I'd be happy to talk to people about it. Certainly, I can only talk from my experience of it. But it's, you know, it's not as difficult to do these things as sometimes people might think, okay, yeah. And so I'm pretty easy to get hold of, in Wellington. And I'll be really happy to talk people through about doing it. I did do it. For my ego. I certainly had some great help along the way. But it was kind of basically just take that next step. You know, I really, really appreciate the people who got on board with with the project and became participants because I think they were quite courageous actually put themselves out there quite a vulnerable thing to do. My understanding, is it, my son found it really positive. [00:20:38] Yeah, I think you're right, as somebody who, who has seen the photos and just went as a viewer to the exhibition, it, that's what struck me about, about how how vulnerable people could potentially be in that in that situation. So yeah, to put themselves out there, we feel comfortable with people looking at not only photos of them, but talking about really personal stuff in their narratives as well. And I guess that's part of how you engaged with them, you know, to get people to that point of feeling that they could be photographed and talk about those kind of things. So I think I guess there's a lot of Yeah, just how you approach approach that project as well, and how you the interaction between you and those people, which seems to me to be, you know, vital in that kind of in that kind of project [00:21:20] are completely it's, it's, there's a lot of trust. Yeah. And there, and Yes, certainly. And I'm to, to really respect where people were coming from and how they wanted to be portrayed. And I feel quite protective of people to be honest. And I've been asked if it could go to other places, and have have said, have said no. Because I think those places should do their own. And I feel like in the context of Wellington, there are people who are living in Wellington, so felt like the friends and family were coming to the exhibition, as well as others that that here was a bit of a cocoon the [00:22:09] responsibility, isn't it around, you've got their identity there and what you then go on to do with [00:22:13] it? Yeah, [00:22:14] yeah. That's, well, thank you for talking this afternoon. It's great to hear a bit more about your experience and how you went about that whole project. And I'm sure we're all looking forward to kind of your next piece of work. [00:22:27] So let us know on Facebook as soon as possible. It is. [00:22:30] Thanks, Karen.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.