Grand Union is delighted to be working with Phyllis Christopher on a solo exhibition of her work. Drawing from the surrounding queer community and her personal connections, her images depict lesbian pleasure, sex positivity and political movements.
She was based in San Francisco from 1988, and was photo editor of On Our Backs, a lesbian erotica magazine, from 1991-1994. During this time, she sensitively captured many gender expressions, moments of protest and moments of queer intimacy in the face of censorship and extreme homophobia at the time.
The show at Grand Union will be an expansion and exploration of Christopher’s work, focussing on the ‘heads and tails’ of her published work. The show will blur the lines of her personal collection and commercial shooting, showcasing queer collectivity and joy.
In 2021, her work will be the subject of a major retrospective organised between BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and Grand Union, Birmingham.
Dark Room: San Francisco Sex and Protest, 1988–2003, published by Book Works in October 2021, is the first book to spotlight Phyllis Christopher’s trailblazing photographs documenting lesbian erotic life and political struggle. Revealing a history that speaks to present queer feminist politics today, the book will feature an expertly handled edit of 100 images, alongside new writing by Laura Guy, Susie Bright, Michelle Tea, and an interview with Shar Rednour.
Phyllis Christopher is a photographer whose work documenting LGBTQ sexuality and protest in San Francisco has been published widely in anthologies such as Nothing But The Girl: The Blatant Lesbian Image (Susie Bright and Jill Posener, 1996), Photo Sex: Fine Art Sexual Photography Comes of Age (David Steinberg, 2003), Art & Queer Culture (Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer, 2013) as well as magazines such as DIVA, Aperture and Art Monthly. Between 1991 and 1994 Christopher was the photo editor of the groundbreaking lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs. She has featured on HBO’s ‘Sexbytes’, Canadian television’s ‘Sex TV’ and the documentary film, Erotica – A Journey into Female Sexuality. Recently, her photographs have been included in various exhibitions including ‘On Our Backs: An Archive’ (The NewBridge Project, Newcastle, 2016) and ‘Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance’ (Nottingham Contemporary, De La Warr Pavilion and Arnolfini, Bristol, 2019). She is a 2020 finalist of the Queer|Art Robert Giard Grant for Emerging LGBTQ+ Photographers.
This project has been put together collaboratively with Phyllis Christopher, Kim McAleese, Hannah Adereti and Ros B.Z.Liebeskind.