‘I pray’ from the series syzygy, the vision by Lola Flash HonFRPS
For more than three decades American artist-activist Lola Flash has been at the forefront of genderqueer visual politics, producing work that challenges racial, sexual, gender and cultural preconceptions.
Now 62 years old, Flash is beginning to receive long overdue critical acclaim and recognition – including an Honorary Fellowship in the 2021 RPS Awards.
Working predominantly in portraiture, Flash uses her 5x4 large format camera to give visibility to LGBTIQA+ communities of colour and celebrate queer legacies. Art and activism are “profoundly connected” for Flash, who has described photography as a “powerful tool to help create justice and equity”.
“I guess when you’re an activist everything seems political,” she says in answer to a question about her urban, architectural photographs. “I’m looking at the lines creating borders and boundaries – sometimes it’s really hard to turn off."
“My work is very honest,” she adds. “My purpose is to show the beauty in us all.”
‘Blowing in the wind’ from the series syzygy, the vision by Lola Flash HonFRPS
In an ongoing series of self-portraits, syzygy, the vision, Flash explores the impact of racism, sexism and homophobia in different contexts. Her image ‘I pray’, made during the pandemic, captures feelings of hopelessness in a New York underground deserted by all but homeless people.
“I took this photo the day after the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) announced they were going to start cleaning the subway in the evening,” she says. “It was early on during the pandemic and I’d heard that the subway had gotten pretty scary, with only homeless people sleeping there because it had become a ‘ghost town’.
“So, I grabbed my tripod and ventured down there. As soon as I got set up, a homeless man came rushing by, almost knocking over my camera. I ended up getting only about three to four images that were in focus, but I was glad I got the one which really shows what I was feeling.”
Read more about the life and work of Lola Flash HonFRPS in a special awards edition of the RPS Journal.
The RPS Journal is available exclusively to members. Join us to receive our award-winning magazine and read more inspiring features. Explore full member benefits here