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Seen: A Celebration of Nashville Queer Community through Portraiture

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Queerness can be so personal, yet it is also something to be shared in community. Growing up as the middle child of three queer kids in a very supportive family amidst a generally conservative landscape of Fort Worth, Texas, queer community has always felt like home to me. My family has been one of the biggest influences in my life and work. I’ve lived almost eleven years in Nashville, and Nashville only felt like home when I started to immerse myself in queer community.

This collection is about seeing and being seen. It is about my love for and connection to queer community and each individual who steps in front of my lens, it is about the power of being seen authentically in a photo of yourself, and it is about the collective community experience of seeing a photo of someone else portrayed authentically and freely, and seeing yourself reflected back. It’s about joy and beauty and confidence. It’s about queerness being felt individually, in partnership, and among friends. It’s about gathering together to celebrate community through art. It’s about the expansiveness and individuality of expression — the fact that it is so personal, yet shared with those who see you —and I am continuously honored to share in that experience with everyone I photograph. The connection we share while creating is the driving force of this work.

I also find my photography to be an outlet to embrace and express my own complex and expansive relationship to my own queerness. As a cisgender bisexual woman in a straight-passing relationship, I often ask the question, what is queerness, if it is not openly presented in my partnership? The circling rumination of whether I’m queer enough, and where my place is in the community which I love so much — is an often flowing undercurrent in my mind. My ever-evolving answer is that it my queerness exists powerfully in myself — who I am, how I view the world, how I relate to the world and those around me, who I feel most safe and authentic with, and how I relate to myself.

This work is a love letter to the Nashville queer community. Here’s to feeling at home within ourselves and with others. Here’s to us.

Emily April Allen, she/her

I am a queer photographer who has called Nashville, TN home since 2012. My work focuses on expanding visibility and documenting community, primarily through portraiture, photographing events, and documentary projects such as Nashville Queers in Quarantine (2020) and The Nashville Bi Diaries (2021-present). I aim to capture authenticity, fluidity, resilience, style, and the complexities of the human experience. I am inspired by the queer individuals in my life and my community, and sharing the stories of others through photography is an honor.

Growing up as the middle child of three queer kids in a politically liberal but observantly Jewish family in Fort Worth, Texas, gave me a unique connection to queerness and a bond to my siblings that stems from building your identity in an environment that doesn’t seem to “fit” who you and your family are. My journey in photography has allowed me to connect with my community in a creative and personal way that has been life changing.

Emily April AllenEmily April Allen Photography she/her/hers @emdashphotos /

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