Mike D’hondt

I am capturing portraiture of the queer communities of Berlin. The portraits tell the story of the people who sit for me. They reveal my interest in them, in the details I see and in what I finally decide to capture on film. 

I am a self trained -analogue- photographer. I started photographing about 10 years ago, shortly after I moved from Brussels to Berlin. The city attracted me because of the freedom and the possibilities it offered, especially to the emerging queer artistic community freshly arriving. Four years ago I started my ongoing portrait series. I felt the need to document the queer crowd. I was inspired by the diversity of characters I saw and their way to redefine gender, resulting in absolute fluidity. In the process of making the portraits I found my queer sitters’ stories most appealing, their ways of getting on with life and the ideals they strive for. 

To be queer means, for me, to be committed to social, racial, sexual and cultural justice and innovation. It’s about humanity, soul, being free, open and courageous. There should be a social aspect in art again that should be focused on. We should be on the front line of defining social change or political matters. The queer community has always played an important role in shaping culture and as artists we are able to confront current issues. The ultimate goal is to push boundaries constantly so we can connect people together and unite them.

 

The Portraits 

The portraits are the result of my fascination with an ever-growing part of the queer communities that is redefining or rather un-defining gender. The portrayed are trying to find a place for themselves in a heteronormative society, where a dick equals male and a pussy equals female. Human nature is much more complex than this simple biological equation. Through my pictures I am celebrating the beauty of the possibilities in times when the concept of gender is dissolving. I am telling stories of fears and desires, struggles and hopes, the utopia and chaos of anarchy. 

The portraits have a dark, gothic undertone, which reflects the current state of the world. This theme was ever recurring during the conversations I had with my models prior to the shootings. Extremist right wing thoughts are discussable again in politics, world leaders are setting up people against each other. It feels like we are already in a Third World War. The aggression in society is much more present. Everything is so blatant through social media, there is so much noise going on, always faster, always louder, always brighter and right in your face. There is a real need for slowing down, introspection and even mysticism again. The portraits are an exorcism. #

I can never thank my models enough, they are the gold. The portraits are the outcome of a collaboration, organic, between the sitter and myself. I navigate my camera with respect and I make it my responsibility to find beauty.

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