Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography Highlights Vietnamese LGBT Couples
By Jerry Portwood
A riveting LGBTQ-themed photo exhibition, titled “The Pink Choice,” premieres today at the Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The exhibit is by Maika Elan, a young Vietnamese photographer, and it highlights routine moments in life and love between same-sex Vietnamese couples.
Elan told The New York Times earlier this month that the project started two years ago with a series of portraits done in Siem Riep, Cambodia. They, too, featured same-sex couples, many of whom were tourist together through the popular LGBTQ travel site, Pink Choice. Upon returning to her Hanoi home, however, Elan decided to focus on other projects, and the stills from Cambodia were set aside.
She revisited the theme of Pink Choice after seeing another exhibition featuring same-sex couples—this time in Vietnam. The depictions of the couples here were cold and unloving; the subjects often adorned masks or had their backs to the camera’s lens. Vietnam is historically unaccepting of same-sex relationships. Though moves towards LGBTQ equality have been made—the nation is currently considering recognizing same-sex marriage and its first public gay pride parade was held last summer—“The Pink Choice” was born as Elan’s response to these often unjust depictions of the nation’s LGBTQ community.
“I saw many different things around me and wanted to change minds,” Elan tells the Times.
There has been an assortment of responses to “The Pink Choice,” perhaps the most surprising of which was anger—anger for not showing enough love and happiness in her captured moments for minds to truly be changed.
“[Some people] want to see more activity and they asked me why my photos are so sad. They want to see more happy moments,” Elan tells the Times. The photographer asserts that happiness is in her photos simply by showing lovers together and at rest. As crazy as this world is, the subjects’ comfort and ease together exudes more happiness than any number of smiles could.
-- Benjamin Lindsay
For more of information on the project, visit Maikaelan.com