In October 2014, while randomly checking an LGBTQ Facebook support page, I saw a post on photography. I immediately sensed the void and immensely felt the need to create a platform for photography hobbyists from within the LGBTQ community. I saw an avid photography hobbyist’s comment which spoke of his interest and emphasized the need to meet and bond with others from the community over photography.
That person was Kartik Sharma. I messaged him right then and there. When we talked, we realized, both of us wanted the same thing – to create an entity that could bind the LGBTQ community through photography.
We thus, created a secret Facebook group and coined the name – ‘QGraphy’. We began with the intention of giving back something to the LGBTQ community. And, quite proudly, we still live by our motto.
As an online group, we began encouraging our members to try their hands at photography; be it professionals or amateurs. We balanced our talent by motivating DSLR users as well as mobile phone users to click pictures. As time passed, we began conducting photowalks and photography workshops. Initially, it was a bit challenging as a lot of our members did not own a camera. All they had was a cellphone, and a lot of them were quite apprehensive to click pictures. We thus introduced various photography-based games and interactive workshops. People then began opening up and started experimenting with photography in its true sense. And pretty soon, our photowalk events were even featured in online platforms such as Mid-Day and Evensi. Thus, the word spread. Many a times, a lot of non-LGBTQ folks would turn up at the venue at the designated time. Some people were surprised to learn that it was a queer group organizing photography events. Much to our dismay, some would walk away, but there were others who would stay back and join in the fun.
Our primary motive is to help the community by offering them photography services. At QGraphy, we have covered multiple important LGBTQ events in Mumbai. There’s the annual Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride March. We also covered the recently concluded KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. And of course, there are those hosted by The Humsafar Trust, and GayBombay, among several others:
As community partners for these events, we do not charge for our services; except when there are costs involved to rent out camera and video equipments for coverage. Hence, the community saves on the cost they would otherwise have to incur by hiring professional services.
We chose the medium of photography to tell the world that we are just like them; as normal and as human as all of them out there. When we look at pictures, we relate to the persons in them, we relate to their stories. Irrespective of communicative or language barriers, people in general feel enthralled when they see their photographs. They happily pose for a picture every time we point our cameras at them. It boosts their confidence. Some of the photographs we clicked during events have been published in various media channels and tabloids. Because of this, an awareness is created.
The QGraphy group on Facebook has now crossed the 1,000 mark and our members’ count keeps increasing by the day. It is merely one’s passion for photography that binds QGraphy and our members together. QGraphy has always been inclusive of various identities – gay men, lesbian women, trans individuals and everyone else on the spectrum. What we strive to achieve in QGraphy is this simple idea – Being queer is just one aspect of our lives; we are more than just our sexualities. All of us are talented in our own ways. Photography and other aspects related to it can be one of our talented identities too. So, why not?