Photographer Filip Skiba’s Queernaissance
His ongoing project explores London’s LGBTQIA+ community in their most liberated spaces.
To place yourself on a pedestal is to be looked upon, a spectacle to behold. But your ankles are exposed, you feel vulnerable. A feeling of defiance that brings on the power of activism.
Filip Skiba’s work has always possessed a sense of intimacy and fluidity. His portraits are gripping, with each one redefining beauty ideals and what it means to be empowered. Whether it’s candid moments amongst friends, contorted embraces or entwined fingers, Skiba’s photographs feel like a warm invitation to share a private moment between friends and lovers. They radiate connection and a conscious understanding.
Four years ago, he turned the spotlight onto his ongoing photography project, The Fluid State, a celebration of queer London youth in their most liberated spaces -their home. And while queer bodies are often eroticized when photographed nude, Skiba wanted the project’s participants to reclaim their bodily autonomies, and had them take their own self-portraits instead. Here, he discusses the motivations behind this collaborative series, the way in which he frames naked queer bodies, as well as his interactions with the models.
“I wanted to develop a sense of collaboration with my participant, so I decided to introduce a tether cable that the model would hold and squeeze in order to capture the image.” explains Skiba. “Not many people notice them but if you look in the palms of each of the models you’ll notice that they are grasping onto them rather compellingly -like they’re withholding so much power but in a subtle way.”
When asked why he had specifically wanted the photos taken in the models’ own homes, Filip tells me it made the project feel much more personal and intimate. “You’re essentially seeing not just the model, but also their personal archive and how their home is laid out. More importantly, for some of them, a home can be a place of retreat from the outside world, but for many it is also a source of trauma. I wanted to revisit all of these spaces in a safe way.”
Light had always been a key element in The Fluid State. “I’m very much inspired by Caravaggio, the light that bends around the bodies and the spectacle that he captivated” Skiba adds.
He drew further influence from Greek statues and the voguing scene, particularly in the gestures both artforms presented. “I’ve always been told that Greek statues are the epitome of masculinity, and I wanted to juxtapose that with performing vogue gestures -something I see as a mirage of all genders. It’s masculine, feminine and anything in between.”
Beginning the project when he was 18, The Fluid State continues to evolve as it tells the stories of Filip Skiba’s innermost circles, as well as individuals he had met through queer dating platforms. For him, the camera was a way he could capture a sense of community in queer spaces, rather than just bodies occupying space.
Today, Filip continues to direct self-portraits for his ongoing project with a growing cast of models. Beginning this year, he has also begun curating a group showcase dealing with artists who look at self-portraiture, a project he’s been shortlisted for at Photofusion Brixton.
Take a look through the gallery above for a selection of some of Filip Skiba’s favorite images from the project.