Queer Hearts of Dublin captures stunning portraits of LGBT+ youth

Creator, 22 year-old Niamh Barry, shared how the process of making the series actually inspired her to come out to her own family.

A topless young man seen from behind

Queer Hearts of Dublin, an incredible new photo series by Niamh Barry, is a gorgeous look at the lives and experiences of LGBT+ youth. The stunning portraits are also accompanied by intimate conversations with the subjects which are both enthralling and enlightening.

Niamh shared her inspirations for creating the project, the unique problems involved in creating the series during the pandemic and the responsibility of trust, alongside her own journey of coming out to her family.

As Niamh elaborates, “Queer Heart of Dublin is a project which explores one’s comfort within their queerness and the area around them. It was inspired by the desire for self-love and discovery. This project has been my most personal yet and provided me with the encouragement to finally tell my family I am queer.”

The project hit the ground running due to the limited timeframe in which Niamh had to both source and photograph her subjects. The pandemic obviously introduced an added set of problems. She explains, “Because I was only in Dublin for 10 days during July and had only that exact amount of time to shoot everything, I resorted to Instagram and Twitter to get the word out there about looking for people to be in the project. I had over 40-50 responses which was insane! But I made sure that people were aware that I was trying to shoot a range of faces from the community and not the same white cis male identity which we always associate with the queer community in Ireland.

“I also made it clear in the post there would be social distancing as I have vulnerable people at home in Cork. It was never an issue with anyone. There was a mutual understanding there, safety-wise. And because most of the photos were taken outside, it was easy to be at a distance. If it was in someone’s home, I asked for their permission and made sure to sanitize and keep my distance. I then wore a mask where it was necessary. Safety and comfort was my number priority for shooting this project.”

Niamh discussed the pressures involved in creating such intimate portraits of her subjects. “I felt such responsibility in terms of telling these individual’s stories because they all put their trust in me. But you also have to believe in yourself too. Shooting film can be a risky game because you can’t exactly see the photos until you develop them. So everything is a risk! But usually, that risk always paid off. 

“I learned so much from each of them. If we take intersectionality into account, we just need to listen to people and take something from each other’s stories. I think overall, intersectionality and practicing it is key when doing such projects. I have always focused on others within my work too. Although I am queer, I am a white cis woman and I have privileges that others don’t. Therefore, I feel it is always essential for me to use the skills I have to project the voices of others through my platform. 

“Each photo means something so special to me. I am glad they could all trust me and my vision.. I always had a bit of a rocky relationship with my internal self, but I always loved that part of me which could make others feel welcomed into my space and art. That’s all I ever really wanted.”

Niamh shared how the project inspired her own coming out journey; “The entire experience was a lot more personal and special to me than I had imagined. I always had a vision with this project but I think I was just so surprised with the entire outcome. I always tell the stories of others through my work but ending the project on a self-portrait finally made it that more personal to me. I was finally telling my story which I think I held back on for quite some time.”

When I wrapped up this project after a beautiful day by Dublin’s coast, I was with my friends who also featured in the project on the Dart. We were talking about queerness and the idea of coming out. I always found coming out to be such an essentialist way of looking at queerness in the sense, homogeny is telling you, ‘hey you can be queer but you have to come out and tell everyone about your sexuality!’ And of course, that’s coming from such a privileged point of view because sometimes hiding in the closet is the only means of survival for some. But I also came to realize how natural queerness really is. It’s just all these crazy social constructs that are built around us which make us feel like we are wrong and not right.”

“The idea of ending on a self-portrait came to me on that Dart ride home when I finished shooting- well so I thought. I knew something was missing and I knew I had to do it. And I knew it would push me to finally tell my family.”

Since creating the portrait series, Niamh shared the reactions she and the subjects have experienced. “It was such a great thing to happen for everyone involved. So many people directly messaged me and others in the project about how much it helped them to deal with internalised homophobia and possible bad outcomes if they came out. 

“I hope someday to bring these pictures to life and create a mini-exhibition. I hope I can get the funding someday somehow! Because I feel looking at these pictures in person would be a completely different experience. It’s my dream to bring this to real life and I really hope someday it can happen soon.”

Niamh has set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for a physical exhibition of Queer Hearts of Dublin in October. To help make that exhibition a reality, you can show your support here.

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