Subverting our gaze

SUAS and DUPA teamed up for a photo exhibition exploring identity and discrimination as part of the 8 x 8 festival

On Thursday night, a student photo exhibit on identity and discrimination was held in the GMB Snooker Room. This event was a part of the 8 x 8 Festival organised by STAND, an initiative for social justice and equality on behalf of SUAS Trinity. The night was held in collaboration with the Dublin University Photography Association (DUPA).

The 8 x 8 festival is run by students for students on campuses across Ireland for one week, with several film screenings and exhibitions. The organiser of the event, and Chair of Suas Trinity, Louise Conway, explained how identity can involve anything from gender, ethnicity, homelessness, and age – the central themes that were exhibited in the photographs selected. She added that the festival started accepting entries three weeks before the event, with the best being selected. A diverse group of students from the various fields of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences, who have travelled from far and wide, exhibited marginalised identity through their photographs in an attempt to focus on these themes.

Katie O’Neil’s exhibit, entitled Queens of Campus, explored gender. It displayed three Trinity students in their drag personas along with the professional drag queen Pixie Woo. Matthew Thomas’s exhibit entitled Grandad was a photograph of his 96 year-old grandfather who suffers from dementia, and had been denied employment in his native Northern Ireland because he was Catholic. The Mennonite Community just outside Toronto was displayed in Ben Morrison’s photographs. Thomas Cochet represented the theme of old age and focused on this population of people that can be ignored by society.

Alana Storm O’Sullivan documented the recent Take Back the City protest, outlining the link that identity has with what and where we call home. She questioned how living without a home defines our identity, through jarring images of a half-clad homeless man sitting in the midst of the protest. Megan Russell brought to light the strange way in which we commodify cultural identity built on marginalised labour that results from discrimination. She shows this through a photograph of a sun-lit Chinatown, which emerged from a period in time when the Chinese community had to build their own space in the US, where these areas now serve as hubs for tourists and a “means of self-advertisement for American diversity”.

Photographs of Indonesia, taken by Padraig Fox, reflected upon the domestic place that women still occupy in their society, along with the responsibility for providing for their parents. An interesting photograph of an Indonesian man on a boat is accompanied by an anecdote of how the tourists on the boat were asked to keep their bags safe when this Indonesian goods seller boarded the boat, reflecting on the “ignorant and preconceived fear of foreign people and immigrants” that Westerners harbour. Ema Jerkovic documented the effects of the Balkan War of 1990, which destroyed and separated families, causing young people to flee their countries in pursuit of better futures in other European states. They left behind the elderly who had lost all their valuables to the war and were now unemployed, and living on very little or no pension at all. The photographs brought the gaze back to the “everyday situations” of these individuals who had been left behind.

Photography was used as a medium to shed light and bring awareness on the way other identities are perceived and treated in society, forcing the viewer to bring their gaze back to that which it doesn’t see and engage with in this event, with STAND successfully took a stand on social issues in collaboration with DUPA through this event.