LGBTQ+ Photography

A celebration of diversity

Author: MartiniPhotography Tutor

  What is Pride?

We are celebrating LGBTQ+ photography! Pride is a festival that promotes self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) people in society.

In the UK it takes place in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, where the gay community took to the streets in protest against the systematic abuse and discrimination that was taking place against their community. Festivals and celebrations take place every year to raise awareness and to celebrate diversity and identity regardless of your sexuality or gender.

iPhotography is a diverse community made up of students from many different cultures all over the world. To celebrate we have chosen 4 influential LGBTQ+ photographers and their works to pay tribute in this guide to LGBTQ+ photography.

pride flag over a non socially distanced crowd LGBTQ+ photography
pride flag and hand heart LGBTQ+ photography
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Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe started taking pictures from a young age using a humble polaroid camera. His first professional camera was a Hasselblad Medium format camera given to him by his life long partner, Sam Wagstaff. Sam was an art curator and was a muse and mentor to Mapplethorpe throughout his career.

Mapplethorpe is known for his Black and White celebrity portraiture and explored his work with a keen fascination with the way society glorified and obsessed over them. Through his work, he wanted to challenge conventional ideas redefining body image through male and female nudity.

andy warhol leaning on a wall
annie lennox touching her face
Credit: – Robert Mapplethorpe

His work is groundbreaking and influential within the LGBTQ+ community and often pushed the boundaries for classical aesthetic standards in regards to race to.

In 1986 he produced a piece known as the ‘Black Book’ that featured ethnic male nudity in an unflinching exploration of the human form.

This piece was seen as very controversial at the time and was said to be an obscenity by many critics.

LGBTQ+ photography
a man holding his ears in his hands LGBTQ+ photography
Credit: – Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe was fundamental to the community and his work often explored topics that were, from a mainstream perspective, seen as unexplored.

He sought to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community within his art, to celebrate the male form, and to celebrate his own sexuality.

“His obscenity is never obscene.” -Patti Smith

two bald men side my side LGBTQ+ photography
a muscular man with his back turned  LGBTQ+ photography
Credit: – Robert Mapplethorpe

Bruce Weber

Bruce Weber started out as a fashion photographer and he featured his first works in the magazine GQ. This was short-lived and Weber was shunned by the fashion world for featuring partial male nudity.

In the SoHo Weekly News, Weber is quoted as saying a lot of magazines don’t want my kind of photographs. It’s too risky for them’

The irony was that as the decades passed he would be sought out by many large fashion houses to photograph exactly this.

a man with hair boots wearing underwear LGBTQ+ photography
Bronzed muscular man in underwear sunbathing LGBTQ+ photography
Credit: – Bruce Weber

In the late 1980s, he worked photographing Andy Warhol for ‘Interview’ Magazine.

He then went on to work on advertising campaigns with famous brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as his work being the iconic face of the brand Abercrombie and Fitch.

He even has his own fashion brand Weberbilt that sold in London, Miami, and Florida.

a woman holding a poodle standing on his hind legs LGBTQ+ photography
Kate moss sitting down with a bikini on
Credit: – Bruce Weber

As well as being known for his photography portfolio, Weber is known as a prominent activist and was recognised in 2014 by the ACRIA organization as fundamental to the worldwide fight against AIDS.

Bruce Weber has left a legacy in LGBTQ+ photography for others to follow. His work was fundamental for bringing gay male imagery into the mainstream with his work in fashion and advertising.

a woman with a coat and briefcase touching her face
man in underwear being drenched in water LGBTQ+ photography
Credit: – Bruce Weber

Pierre Et Gilles

tilda swinton in elizabethan dress LGBTQ+ photography
Credit: – Pierre Et Gilles
a man crying holding roses

Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard, more commonly known as Pierre Et Gilles have worked together since 1976, ‘creating a world where painting and photography meet’.

They work by using life-sized photos which are then embellished with paint to create art that combines the two.

Naked man in a ball pool
Credit: – Pierre Et Gilles
Man holding flowers

They have been commissioned to work as artists for many musicians, and have created pieces that feature many celebrities from Iggy Pop to Tilda Swinton.

The pair never use Photoshop with their work and this emphasizes their practical skills in production and design.


Annie Leibovitz

a woman holding her had in her hands walking towards the camera
Credit: – Annie Liebowitz

Annie Leibovitz is one of the most famous and influential portrait photographers of all time. She is best known for her engaging portraits, particularly of celebrities, which often feature the models in poses that are considered intimate. 

She has worked with many iconic names over the decades from Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth II, Demi Moore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon and Miley Cyrus, to name a few.

a woman holding her had in her hands walking towards the camera
Credit: – Annie Liebowitz

One of her most famous photographs is a picture taken of the late John Lennon and Yoko Ono mere hours before his death. This image has become to be known as one of the most famous photographs of all time.

Many of her shoots have been surrounded with controversy, including a topless shoot with a young Miley Cyrus. She was also commissioned to take portraits with the Queen of England, where she has been quoted as asking her to be ‘less dressy’. From the understated image featured here, I can’t see what she meant!

LGBTQ+ Photography is about personal expression, however, this does not always meet with the support of the societal masses. These artists have carved a path through their successes, controversy, and fight against the classical aesthetics of mainstream photography. Pride reminds us that we should celebrate what makes us different and that everyone has a right to a voice.

Equality means “the state of being equal.” That does not mean that everyone gets the same tools, it’s that everyone is given the support to reach that same level of opportunity.

a couple sharing a moment next to a lake
a couple holding hands

What does LGBTQ+ Photography and Pride mean to you? Do you have a story to tell? – Get in touch.

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