We interviewed Polish photographer No_Pic_No_Chat, who just released the first issue of the homonym zine, focused on the experience of gender. NO_PIC_NO_CHAT photographs and talks – with transgender people, but not only. Without deceiving themselves or others, they talk about their way to self-acceptance and pride of their body and their sexuality in the most intolerant country in the European Union. The magazine’s guest is also the legend of queer culture, Canadian director, photographer and visual artist – Bruce LaBruce, whose body of work boldly and humorously levitates above all cultural norms.
Pornceptual: The main subject of the magazine is the experience of gender. You photographed and interviewed the people, capturing not only the “pornographic” side by also a very intimate side of them. From mental health issues to sex toys and relationship with parents.
NPNC: The experience of gender is related to all of this – how parents raise you as a child (and socialize you to fulfill male or female roles) the acceptance of your gender expression when you grow up, and much more. There’s no sexual education in Poland, so kids are left alone with their problems. If you’re transgender or a non- binary teen, how do you know that you’re not just a fucked up freak (when the homophobic society claims so)? And when you accept yourself, you continue your sexual adventure, but now „being in the right place” if you know what I mean. It all together builds a story of my characters, very unique to each of them. Sometimes it’s explicit , sometimes gentle and intimate, it all makes who we are.
P: What kind of experiences were you told and is there a pattern between all of them?
NPNC: Every person has a unique story of how they got to be proud of who they are and the way to get to that point. From very violent stories involving drugs, rape, homelessness, through artistic expression that help some of them, or political and social activism that they are in. Each story could be a movie, and a fucking good one! It’s like they have lived 5 lives in one. So many experiences that a cis-gender person usually doesn’t have or doesn’t even have a clue about.
But the common thing is when you finally arrive „to the right place”: when you find yourself in a gender or in a process. The feeling of relief, the “finally being at home”. The moment you can begin to act as yourself, not as you were told to. Now you can be free and start to live. Let me quote Kacper, transgender male ( @ka.per ) who was feeling, for 20 years, as his life was a movie that he was watching:„ But since I came out, since I had this dick (strap-on) between my legs, I think I’ve slowly “come back” to who I truly am. And a good thing about it is that now I can actually remember things that I do, all these stories and experiences suddenly make sense to me. And I feel like doing things again. Sometimes Stewa (my girlfriend) makes fun of me, that I’m always trying to do things that make sense, it’s like I’m trying to catch up all these twenty years of my life that I’ve lost, when I was living this confined lifestyle.”
P: What was a photo session like? And what was your reaction to their stories?
NPNC: It was always very chilled, more like talking and doing some pics in between. For sure there was a sense of trust between me and the model and the feeling that „this is a safe space, whatever I do or tell- it’s ok”. And you know, we were talking all the time, so it sometimes seemed like a normal meeting, not a photo shoot. And sometimes it was like a regular fun party haha.
At the beginning I wanted to publish a book only with pics, but when I took pics of Edmund ( @blueandkxnky ) and he told me his story I felt that it’s impossible. I had this amazing looking guy in front of my camera. Like a Greek god, the only difference was that he has a vagina and scars after mastectomy. The pics we did were very powerful but without the stories in the interviews all of it would be just „ interesting, great, art bla bla photography”. And now I think we are closer to being a witness of how it is to be a real, brave, sexual human being .
P: What would you give as a definition of gender?
NPNC: My answer to this question is 160 pages of magazine haha 🙂 But there’s also a beautiful essay in the publication, by Emanuela Lewandowska (@paris.queerton ) , on gender, here’s an excerpt that, I think, is a very touching answer to it:
„ It is a spectacle; what one does within their gender expression is a constant game in which identity is negotiated and boundaries are expanded. Let establishing one’s gender identity be an invitation to exploration. Let it embrace some social conventions, while challenging others. Let this personal performance of finding one’s identity play out on the basis of emotional intimacy and – most of all – freedom.”
P: Polish government is one of the most discussed for queer and women’s rights, yet there has been lately a very active resistance. How is the situation changing and what else should be done to bring equality for all?
NPNC: The government is violating basic human rights „in your face” . Something like the Middle Ages, catholic-patriarchy is an official propaganda here. Abortion is almost impossible in Poland, LGBTQ+ rights don’t exist at all. Homo and transphobia are officially encouraged and appreciated by the government. Let me just say we have „ LGBT free zones” (stated by the municipalities), and the president speaks publicly that „LGBTQ+ are not humans”.
But the officials are afraid of the masses, if they see people on the streets protesting they aggressively try to kill that movement, but if it continues they slowly back off. And after the women protests (against abortion ban) in 2020 the society feels more confident, there’s been a change in people’s minds. Now individuals and groups feel stronger, it’s like a wave that cannot be stopped.
I saw this year the most beautiful pride and events. People feel that they are together and that change is possible. It will take some time, but you know , the river goes only in one direction. Like in my magazine, there are a lot of Polish NGOs supporting the publication, but also international organizations that feel that it is important to be part of the change in Poland. Also, this interview is part of it- Polish community feels like our situation is being observed from the outside. It’s also a big support from you- that you pay attention to it, and we feel that you are with us.
P: Queer artist Bruce LaBruce is the magazine’s guest, tell us about his work and how is it relevant for the queer art community and for this project.
NPNC: I was always stunned by his works, and how easily and joyfully he crosses all the social and sexual boundaries (representation of transgender people, disabled, also gay skinheads, zombies etc) . He did a lot for the queer community, his pornographic works were eaten by the mainstream media (exhibition in MOMA, all the big film festivals). I love his attitude – very political and media aware but at the same time sexy and with a sense of humor. I’m pleased that he’s the guest artist in my magazine. His pictures feel very optimistic, they communicate that „gender” can also be good fun! So from my perspective he’s a bright light whispering to your ear „let’s have some good time :)”