Lesbians in a box… two thousand private snapshots hidden away for over fifty years reveal the rich history of Chicago’s working class butch/fem life in the pre-Stonewall era. Spanning four decades, from the 1930s to the early 1970s, the snapshots provide a rare look at a vanished and vibrant Lesbian culture: images of lovers and friends as they played, posed, serially switched partners, worked, partied, drank, and aged. Now we all take selfies; these women used a Brownie camera to tell the story of their community. Lives:Visible explores the ephemeral nature of culture and the power of the images we make.
Norma and Virginia were lovers for almost fifty years. They died isolated, the vibrant pre-Stonewall lesbian community of their youth long gone. A love story about the unforeseen trajectory of lives lived outside the mainstream told through the 2000 snapshots they left behind.
“While Vivian Maier’s photos are surely beautiful and her life just as compelling, Citron’s merging of an almost utopian corporeality with ambiguities owing to the art of filmmaking, the nature of representation and the general dubiety of life insists that we view the past through a new lens.”
Michelle Citron is an award-winning digital and film artist. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Chicago, and the American Film Institute, as well as the New Directors, Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Viper, and SeNef film and new media festivals. Her films and interactive narratives are distributed worldwide and are in the permanent collections of over two hundred universities and museums. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including two National Endowment for the Arts Filmmaking Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Humanities Media Grant, and three Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowships, for digital arts, filmmaking, and screenwriting. She is the author of the awarding winning book Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions and the films Daughter Rite, Parthenogenesis, What You Take For Granted…, and Leftovers, and the interactive narratives Cocktails & Appetizers, Mixed Greens, and As American As Apple Pie (collected at queerfeast.com).
“Lesbians in a box. That’s how I think of the trove of over 2000 snapshots that are the heart of my film, LIVES:Visible. The photos were taken by Norma and Virginia who lived together as a lesbian couple in Chicago’s East Rogers Park neighborhood for almost 50 years. They died in their 80s leaving behind snapshots of themselves and their friends spanning over four decades, 1936 -1975. LIVES:Visible is the second and final film I’ve created using Norma and Virginia’s photos. The first film, Leftovers, focused exclusively on Norma and Virginia during the last decade of their life when they were cut off from family and friends. LIVES:Visible expands the story to explore the cultural and historical context of the photographs. LIVES:Visible uses two cultures – Chicago’s vibrant pre-Stonewall lesbian community and the Kodak snapshot – to explore the ephemeral nature of all cultures, even life itself.”