It’s Good to Be Needed is a photography project exploring the possibilities afforded by a simple gesture of physical intimacy between ex-partners. In this project, I am photographing queer women who are ex-partners, but who are not friends, holding hands with each other.
It’s been challenging to explain what exactly this project is about and I guess it’s really part participatory performance project and part documentary photography project. The aim of the project is to provide participants with an opportunity to engage in a moment of discomfort/vulnerability and to experience what happens when you perform intimacy despite time and distance and hurt and conflict.
The project title is both a reference to the relationship that once existed between each pair of subjects and also to the act of holding hands. Holding someone’s hand can give us feelings of comfort, protection and safety. We take someone’s hand to let them know that we are there for them, that they are not alone, that they belong. As queers, holding hands is often also a sign of pride and resistance. This simple act makes our relationships visible and we all need each other’s visibility.
My motivation for doing this project comes from having recently experienced a number of significant personal losses in a short space of time. As I continue to struggle to find my place in the world again, I find myself needing connection like never before. Old grief has resurfaced and I am interested in re-examining what I have let slip away and what I still have to let go. I’m a lover not a fighter and there are regrets.
I also seem to have an increased sensitivity to other people’s guilt and pain and anger. There is a lot, all around us, and many of us never learned how to work through this stuff. It’s hard work. And even though the dominant queer cultural narrative is that lesbians are always friends with their exes, many of us aren’t. Some of us aren’t for good reason, and some of us aren’t because we hurt each other too much, or we feel guilty, or too much time has passed to pick up the phone or send an email. This project is my attempt to offer a momentary opportunity for risk, for connection and for letting go. If you’re a lover and not a fighter, maybe you’ll join me.
Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born filmmaker and photographer who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She is the director of Surrounded by Water (2003) and Black Men and Me (2006). NOW Magazine’s Cameron Bailey named Michèle one of Toronto’s 10 best Filmmakers of the Year in 2006, and the following year she won the Best Canadian Female Short Award at the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival. She has written film reviews for Xtra! Magazine and her writing has also been published in Bent on Writing: An Anthology of Queer Tales. Her most recent photography project, Diplomatic Communication, was presented at Axe Grinding Workshop, part of the Civil Partnerships? Queer and Feminist Curating conference at The Tate Modern in May 2012. Her current photography project, It’s Good to Be Needed, was on view in the group exhibition That’s So Gay at The Gladstone Hotel in July 2013. Michèle has served on the board of directors for the Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival and Trinity Square Video and she was a jury member for the Ontario Association of Art Galleries annual awards in 2010. Currently she is on the boards of the Feminist Art Gallery and Gallery 44. Michèle will be pursuing an MFA in Documentary Media Studies at Ryerson University beginning in September 2013.