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© teresa fischer

Herstory Repeats Itself

Francesca Hummler
Francesca Hummler
+February 19, 2022
Visual representations of romantic public affection are an influential form of cultural currency. They teach observers who is allowed to share a kiss, and about the power of vulnerability. It's no wonder that the Queer photographic archive orbits two main themes; censorship and visibility. Historic images of same-sex couples have a double life, at once a celebration of love and also a forbidden record of intimacy. The shift between these two facets is evident in the battle to suppress or preserve such imagery.

When studying the fate of photographs of lesbian couples in a German cultural context one has to consider the accelerated cultural liberation of the Weimar Republic, which then plunged into nazism. As many images that depict queer culture were destroyed during the second world war, Teresa Fischer, a German photographer educated at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, has begun collecting images of lesbian couples kissing to form an archive for the public to access. This archive, part of the Sappho's Daughters project, has been publicly exhibited, serving as a counterpart for a reflection on contemporary culture. This aspect is very important to Fischer, who laments the collection of these images for private viewing, which both hides a pertinent history and fetishizes the document as an object in need of ownership.
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
© Teresa Fischer
Fischer's ongoing series "Herstory Repeats Itself" consists of the reenactment of vintage photographs of female couples embracing or kissing. She writes that the images "criticizes lesbian erasure from history while at the same time documenting present-time lesbian culture in an active attempt to rewrite history." Interestingly, the series was also shot on a Kodak Beau Brownie, one of the first photography devices available to the broader public, creating an influx of amateur work that documented family life. The ideal of the nuclear family normally excludes queer culture by centering binary gender roles. This series plays off of posing tropes seen in a family album in wedding photos, forming a set of uniform silhouettes where two people become one throughout the images. The varying landscape behind the couples adds a romantic aspect to the work with which viewers can play a game of recognition.
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
© Teresa Fischer
The series is impactful precisely because of the way it links politics surrounding sexuality from the past to the present day. As gay liberation pushed the conversation surrounding sexuality towards visibility, encouraging "coming out" and celebrating instead of assimilating into the heteronormative culture, photographs of gay pride have become more ubiquitous. A manifesto present in visual representation and in the act of reclaiming representation of LGBTQ+ people from the past. When viewing Fisher's series of reenactments without the original images one is reminded that trauma lives in the body, not in the archive. By involving individuals from the lesbian community in Germany in the production of her work Fischer successfully creates an atmosphere of communal solidarity or collective healing. Those interested in being photographed with their partners can reach out to the artist at herstoryrepeatsitself@posteo.de to get involved in the project, as Fischer continues to expand her portfolio.
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
  • Foto Femme united image
© Teresa Fischer
Francesca Hummler
Francesca Hummler
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Francesca Hummler is a photographer based in San Diego, California. She received her B.A. in Media A...

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