REFLECTING ON NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY
A message of self-empowerment is central to the work of photographer Eric Brumfield and costume designer Kate Kelly-Johnson, who join us in celebrating National Coming Out Day. Both Eric and Kate reflect on the power of a creative spirit that transcends age, race and gender. Whether it be capturing a portrait or designing a costume, the act of creation ultimately opens our minds and hearts to the diversity of the human experience.
Eric Brumfield continues to learn about himself with each person he photographs. Looking at one of his portraits, you are immediately struck by his subject’s magnetic aura, captured in the context of dynamic colour, lighting and prop elements. Thematically, Eric’s work often explores the vibrancy of Australia’s queer community, celebrating the unique personal journeys of those who have taken ownership of their individuality.
‘Being queer, I come from a place where queer people have always had to think outside the box and use their imagination, given the society that we live in. I’m always about empowering other queer people with my work, and really showing them their power that they sometimes forget they have,’ Eric says.
The storytelling lens
Having worked on projects with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the South Australian State Theatre Company, Eric’s approach to storytelling is centered upon the values of truth and optimism. From commercial campaigns to privately commissioned portrait series, Eric is dedicated to giving others a voice through his work, particularly members of the queer community.
‘I feel that it’s very important for people to be queer and comfortable in their own skin, and for that to be recognised in the community. National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to support people in acknowledging their queerness,’ he reflects.
The artform of drag is another recurring theme in Eric's work. As he notes, drag exemplifies the celebration of personal empowerment, and it is so widely celebrated today due partly to globally loved TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the presence of drag artists with millions of followers on social media. Drag is a dynamic synergy of persona, music, art and design, engaging multiple creative discourses in the performance process.
‘I think drag is the ultimate activism and ownership of your queerness and creativity. I have so much admiration for people who do drag. From the performance, to the costuming, to the makeup, it's got so many elements you can play with. It really goes hand in hand with photography. Each individual brings their own persona, and that makes for an endless collage of creativity.’
Messages of optimism
As Eric shares, being queer can mean you are on a path that isn’t necessary paved out for you in society. The world can feel dark and confusing at times, so the knowledge that your community is there to support you, and celebrate you for you who are, is greatly uplifting.
‘I’m always drawn to flowers and colour, which I want to capture in order to make others feel hopeful and optimistic on their journey. For me personally, art and photography has been a huge aspect in my journey to taking ownership of my queerness,’ he says.