This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Pride Movement, and we’re celebrating with three LGBTQ+ Photoshop artists whose work embodies the spirit of pride.
But before we embark on their journey, let’s turn the clock back 5 decades to the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.
At the time, drag was an arrestable offense, as was homosexuality itself. After an unjust police raid at a New York City gay club called the Stonewall Inn, riots broke out. The LGBTQ+ community would no longer stand for the discrimination they faced. These protests carried on, and soon, the movement spread across the country and around the world.
Now, Pride Month takes place every June to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising and to promote the ever-progressing LGBTQ+ rights movement, usually with parades and other festivities. Pride Month is also a time to recognize places where members of the LGBTQ+ community are underrepresented and make a point of giving them new platforms to share their voice. On that note, we’re thrilled to introduce Savana Ogburn, Eli Rezkallah, and Fernando Monroy.
Meet Savana Ogburn
Queer photo collage artist Savana Ogburn is no stranger to surrealism. Her work tiptoes into whimsical and wacky realms, using bright colors and bold textures, all while showcasing themes of femininity, camp, and queerness.
“I think that artistic expression is huge for human beings in general,” Savana shares, “but it often plays a larger role in marginalized communities. When you don’t see people like yourself represented in most media, sometimes creating that representation is the best way to cope.” And that’s exactly what Savana did. Picking up her mother’s camera at the age of 13, Savana took her first step into her artistic journey.
Over the years, both creating art to express her identity and finding her identity through her creations, Savana began to explore her own queerness. She explains, “I don’t know whether I would have recognized my queerness for what it is had it not been for making art with other fabulous queer people. They opened up my mind to all kinds of expression and ways of being. I also believe that queer people specifically have an incredible eye for fantasy, detail, and humor that offers so much to the art world.”
Now, Savana has a loving home in the queer community where she’ll be celebrating Pride this month in addition to the other 11 months of the year. For Savana, Pride is less about parades and buying rainbow tennis shoes, though she admits both to be very fun. “It’s more about celebrating just how creative and badass queer people are!”
Meet Fernando Monroy
Fernando Monroy is a young visual artist with a moody, pop-art style and a passionate purpose. Although he was drawn to art from childhood, Fernando found his creative voice in his teenage years. He admits, “I owe a lot to Lady Gaga – she helped me realize so much about the world of art, fashion, and design as a way to represent our emotions and feelings.” With the gay (and straight) icon as his inspiration, Fernando began to draw in order to share his mind with the world.
Since then, he has been sharing his art on Instagram. “I don’t have a lot of experience in the art community in general,” he explains. “In all honesty, I just put my work out there and hope for the best.” Despite not having a physical community of artists from which to draw inspiration, Fernando feels empowered by other LGBTQ+ artists he has discovered over the years. He adds, “I have found that we, LGBTQ+ artists, are like a family that supports each other and helps everyone’s projects succeed.”
If there’s one thing Fernando hopes his art could do, it’s to teach the world the importance of LGBTQ+ representation. Just because there has been progress over the past 50 years, does not mean that progress is over (not by any means). Fernando expands, “There are kids everywhere, trying to find their identity, feeling alone, worried that there’s something wrong with them. It is more important now than ever to defy complacency and focus on representing LGBTQ+ communities in popular culture.”
In light of Pride’s 50th anniversary, Fernando’s shared one parting message: “We must remember our history, learn from it, and remind people that we are here, that we exist, and that we are important.”
Meet Eli Rezkallah
Growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, Eli Rezkallah saw darkness and oppression of LGBTQ+ communities as the norm. Rather than backing down into the narrow box that was closing in on him, Eli rose up, using art as a way to add colors and beauty to his life.
“My work is very much a recreation of the unusual childhood that I had,” Eli explains. “My subjects are often women in a juxtaposed reality where fear is always present despite the manicured lives they lead.” Surrounded by his mother and her friends, young Eli watched as they put on a brave face and turned a blind eye towards their country’s tense social-political situation. “No matter how colourful and vibrant they would paint their world,” he says, “they could never hide the sentiment of dread that they felt while living in an environment on the verge of destruction.” This theme, along with other social commentary, can be seen throughout Eli’s fine art photography.
Celebrating pride and advocating for LGBTQ+ liberation throughout his life and through his art, Eli holds the month of June close to his heart. “Pride Month is important not only to celebrate inclusivity and love,” he shares, “but also to remember and honor the bravery of those who came before us and led us to where we are today. Coming from the Middle East, it is indeed bittersweet, as the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community is very prominent. I personally fight this oppression through my art every day.”
Thanks for joining us in this celebration of these three artists for Pride Month. Don’t fret, because the festivities do not stop here. Now that you’ve gotten a taste of some of the amazing ways members of the LGBTQ+ community express themselves through art, feast your eyes on even more! Continue to seek out artists like Savana, Fernando, and Eli, and make a point of finding new perspectives from LGBTQ+ creators.