On Black Patriotism, Queerness, and a Reimagined America: A Review of “Quiladelphia” by Quil Lemons

September 7th marked the opening of ‘Philadelphia’, the inaugural show of Quil Lemons, a radical queer photographer who, at age 26, is already pushing the boundaries of both queer and black representation. Lemons first gained notoriety with ‘Glitterboy’, a series of portraits that sought to decode traditional understandings of hypermasculinity within the black community. ‘Quiladelphia’ picks up where ‘Glitterboy’ left off; Lemons continues his deconstruction of hypermasculinity whilst equally seeking to construct an original narrative of his lived black and queer experience. 

‘Glitterboy’ photography series (2017) by Quil Lemons. Courtesy of the artist.

Of course, ‘Quiladelphia’ does differ from its predecessor in some significant ways. 6 years have passed since the viral success of ‘Glitterboy’ and, in the time since, Lemons has undoubtedly grown into his self-professed radicalism. Whilst ‘Glitterboy’ represented the joy of queer-black adolescence, ‘Quiladelphia’ speaks to the sensuality of queer adulthood. Its subjects are intimate, vulnerable, and unapologetically erotic. Many of Lemons’ subjects are nude, bound, or in one case, engaged in penetrative sex. The images are purposely striking, a reminder that, to Lemons, seeing is believing; only through encountering queer existence can the audience come to fully conceive of it. Through his visual encounter with queerness, Lemons seeks to render mainstream lived experiences that are all too often marginal. In part, Lemons makes himself a vessel for this mainstreaming – by telling his story, he tells the story of many others. 


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