Lydia Metral on the diversity of the LGBTQ+ Community

The LGBTQ+ community is never short of reasons for celebrating their uniqueness, diversity, energy and creativity. As such, it’s always inspiring to join the Pride Month festivities and witness the what makes the community colorful and unique.

Apple, for example, recently launched “As Told By Us,” a Shot on iPhone series showcasing poignant work from an “illustrious group intersectional creatives.” Central to the series are places of historic significance to the community and their enduring importance as seen through the lens of the project’s featured photographers.

Among them is French and Spanish queer photographer Lydia Metral, who mainly saw the importance of representing the diversity of the queer community. By including a variety of people from the collective, she believed she would be able to give voice to the whole community and place the spotlight on their real stories.

Metral also chose Plaza de Chueca as the setting of her series. It’s fitting given its status as the epicenter of Pride in Madrid. She recalled a nightclub just next to the Plaza she used to frequent with friends. There, she found it very easy, safe, and comfortable to meet queer people.

“I realized that the club is still there after all these years! Madrid is a place where you meet a lot of friendly people, there is an incredible energy. I really enjoyed this time of my life and felt very connected to the area so it was quite emotional to come back to this place after so many years in order to build a project about the queer community.”

As a queer creative, she saw the project as a means to talk about herself and the people around her. She wanted to “spread a message of love, tolerance and self-acceptance” from a community still vulnerable and misunderstood. She also believes that they have reached the point where they don’t want to hide anymore. “Hence, the goal is to become more and more visible so one day, we will be fully accepted.”

No one way to be queer

Metral’s natural interest in people eventually led her to document the queer community while living in Paris in the 2010s. During this time, she began to feel compelled to give a platform for the young queers she met and advocate for their visibility. It also reminded of her own struggles in her early 20s, when she wasn’t able to identify with queer icons. “As a queer person, I have always felt there was a lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the media. Most queer people never came out because they feared they would be rejected,” she added.

To emphasize the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, Metral decided to showcase her subjects in a very natural way. She introduces them to us as they are in everyday life, as she usually does in her personal work. The reality, she stressed, “is that the community is very diverse and everyone has something to bring to the table.”

“Before, we would refer to the Pride as Gay Pride, forgetting about other profiles such as trans people, lesbians etc. There is not just one way to be queer and that is what I wanted to show with this piece of work. For me, this assignment was an extension of years of documenting the LGBTQ+ community and I wanted to highlight its reality and diversity with authenticity and spontaneity.”

A tribute to a historical place

“Chueca is the place where historically, queer people would meet without fearing for their lives,” Metral noted, making it the best spot for her favorite photo above. Her trans woman model, Michelle Nicholas, got in touch with her a long time ago to collaborate on a personal project. However, they had to repeatedly postpone it due to distance and schedule. Finally, “As Told By Us” gave them the perfect opportunity to give the collaboration another go.

“When Apple contacted me to do the campaign, I immediately thought about her. I really wanted her to participate in the project. That was the first time we met in person and we immediately connected both at a personal and creative level. It was incredible. I had an amazing time with her,” she shared. “The photoshoot was very sweet and I think we can feel our connection in this photo. Her soft gaze and her amazing presence really caught my attention. Michelle was so generous and authentic. We had a lot of fun together!”

Metral added that the picture was taken in a very emblematic corner near Plaza de Chueca. Called the Square of the Trans Memory, it was renamed in 2017 after a trans adolescent who committed suicide in 2015. This makes the square full of meaning, and any LGBTQ+ project taken in and around it extra poignant.

“It is important to give a voice to the trans community who are the most vulnerable ones. It is important not to forget that they were the ones who initiated the Pride movement. The photo is an homage to the past, present and future. Also, Plaza de Chueca is a corner where Michelle has always felt very confident and safe. And at the time of taking photos, it is crucial that the model feels confident and is able to express herself with pride without any fear. It is what Pride is all about: Being proud of who you are and where you come from.”

Documenting pride for an enriched creative life

Documenting Pride often brings a myriad of meanings to every creative. For Metral, it’s about bringing attention to the different personalities and energies that bring positivity to the community. A show of strength and power, she also beautifully described.

“People from the LGBTQ+ community really stand out. We’ve been hiding for so long, so it is very important to have visibility. We’ve also been so ashamed of who we are, and scared of people’s reaction that we had the urge to do things differently. In order to do so we had to be very creative. Being surrounded by passionate and committed people in this way really helped me to grow in my creative life,” she added.

All of these come together to enrich her creative life, bringing her something new to learn to become a better person and artist. With a community as colorful as this, she finds it brimming with “great ideas that help our society to deconstruct or open their minds.”

“Life is not black or white, life is gray. That is what I learned after being surrounded by amazing creative people. I know I still have a lot to learn about myself and about others. That’s what makes both my creative and personal life very exciting because I question things everyday and don’t take anything for granted.

“I know we celebrate Pride today, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to fight for our rights in the future. The world we live in is very volatile and constantly changing so we need to continue to create in order to pave the way for a better future. I really trust in the power of art and the power of our community.”

Keep an eye out for Lydia Metral’s photos for the campaign on @apple on Instagram. Don’t forget to check out her website and follow her on @lydiametral on Instagram as well to see more of her outstanding work.

Photos by Lydia Metall, courtesy of Apple

Leave a Comment