A queer look at history

FOR most of WA’s history no one was taking photos of openly gay couples.

In line with cultural mores, same sex and other queer relationships were kept in secret, and as a result they’re underrepresented in our archival history which is instead populated by images of heterosexual couples: wedding photos with bride and groom, family portraits with mum and dad holding hands, or soldiers reunited with their brides after war.

In Plain Sight is an exhibition of photographs in the State Library of WA archives that invites viewers to imagine what queer relationships might have looked like in WA’s past.

• What stories lie behind this old photo? Image courtesy State Library of WA

It features photos that show moments of ambiguous intimacy: images of two men holding hands (who might’ve just been friends or colleagues), women in male clothes, or a bride with no groom in sight. Interpretation is left to the viewer.

State Library CEO Margaret Allen says it’s an “experimental interpretation” of the photographs: “Visitors are invited to imagine the stories these images may tell,” Ms Allen says.

“Queer history is often undocumented and as such, underrepresented in the State Library’s heritage collections.

In Plain Sight invites viewers to engage with photographs of intimate moments to imagine what the untold stories may have been and challenge the traditional understandings that dominate historical discourse.”

In Plain Sight is free and runs until December 5.

by DAVID BELL

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