“Faces and Phases,” a new exhibit by award-winning South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi, features the country’s lesbian and transgender population in an effort to influence South African policy regarding the LGBT community.

She told Huff Post Gay Voices: “The message that I wanted to share with the people is that you can’t change the laws without changing the image. You need to change the image in order to educate people. My work instills visual activism. It’s one thing to theorize about LGBT rights, but it something to visualize the people that you are talking about.”

Muholi believes the exhibit will help communicate her perspective on LGBT politics in a way that’s easy for people to digest and understand: “Those pictures are basically about sharing my view with the people. Also, to simplify the sexual politics and topic for general audiences because when you think LGBT politics there is too much complexity. From the educational system to historical books that are sitting in some departments of universities. The language and theories are just too complicated for any ordinary person who might not have higher education. Photographs make life easier for people to understand regardless of the language.”

She also makes a point to include the transgender community, saying: “We are now at a period in our time where we see the images of the trans movement. This is before we even take care of the queer politics or queer element. Now as lesbians and gay people, we need to make sure that we fight that war with trans people.”

Her visual activism includes “timeless” black and white photos of beautiful lesbian and transgender subjects. The stunning shots are currently on display at New York City’s Yancey Richardson Gallery until April 6.


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