Visitors deeply impressed by the 2015 exhibition

First the Red Light District with prostitutes behind windows. Then, after all those rooms of depravity the beauty of the Old Church and within the exhibition Pride Photo Award 2015. For tourists the exhibition is a big surprise: ‘a contrast of extremes’, says Kasi, one of the hosts. Other visitors know what they can expect, and have come to the church specifically to see the exhibition. The volunteers who acts as hosts at the exhibition can tell many stories of how visitors are often touched by the photos.
Amsterdam, 18 september 2015 Pride Photo Award, 2015, Oude Kerk, prijsuitreiking
Photo by Wim Salis
An older couple from the UK walks over to the exhibition. The man has Dutch roots; a professor and doctor at a British university, as later on he will proudly write in the guest book. He eyes the photos warily. ‘Bunch of wierdos’, he exclaims once he understands what the photos are about. Claire Meeussen, one of the hosts at that moment, engages him in conversation. She takes him to the winning photo by Marika Puicher, that tells the story of an 11-year old trans girl. This isn’t about weirdos, but about real people in search of their identity. Claire provides background information, explains the stories behind the images. The professor relents, is prepared to listen. Claire talks with him and his wife for about an hour as they walk past the images. It turns out that the professor is struggling with his own views of what is masculine, or should be. He thanks Claire and praises the event.

Eli, 11, while playing with her younger brother Nacho, 8. Madrid (Spain) - April 2015. Winner of the 2015 Pride Photo Award.

Eli, 11, while playing with her younger brother Nacho, 8. Madrid (Spain) – April 2015. Winner of the 2015 Pride Photo Award.

Kasi has similar experiences. Talking about the images on display often leads to confessions and deep discussions. A group of pedagogy students who visit the exhibition for a project were initially given just ten minutes by their teacher to look at the photos, but they needed at least half an hour and wanted to know everything. They were especially curious about transgenders and wanted to hear all the details about the operations. But those details are not known to the hosts, and they tell that isn’t relevant to know whether or not a person has male or female genitalia: what matters is whether that person feels they are a man or a woman, how they identify and what means for that person and their surroundings. That is what the photos are about.
Comments have been written in the guest book in many different languages. Some quotes:

  • ‘Splendid – touching, sometimes frightfully raw.’
  • ‘Very good. Openness is a real beginning. Thanks for that.’
  • ‘As we are reminded that Christianity was once for the marginalized and perhaps it is still capable of such compassion.’
  • ‘These pictures give me hope.’
  • ‘A very moving set of images. Beautiful and brave.’
  • ‘What courage it takes, especially in some countries, to come out of the closet or undergo a sex change and then be photographed like that.’
  • ‘Very nice to see so many perspectives on sexuality, femininity, masculinity. Expressions of freedom. Inspiring.’
  • ‘Beautiful and amazing. Hope to get to the day that these images are not anymore solely in an exposition, but in every days life available’
  • ‘The globally hidden revealed by a touch of light’
  • Pride Photo Award is an annual international contest for photos about sexual and gender diversity.


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