Berlin loves to love, and Berlin loves to make love. With its “poor but sexy” attitude, with Christopher Street Day, Straßenfest, and its beautiful, diverse party and club landscape, the city certainly knows how to celebrate love. But while you can go out every night, proclaim and rejoice in your sexuality in the guts of Berlin… the same can’t be said for all other cities or countries.
In 75 countries, same-sex acts are still illegal and identifying yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex is dangerous… and subject to rampant discrimination and even death.
Photographer and human rights activist Robin Hammond, the four-time recipient of the Amnesty International Human Rights Award, is documenting these stories of hatred, punishment and criminalization.
His ongoing project, Where Love is Illegal, is not just an intense portrait series but a universal, political statement, a stand against discrimination, persecution and violence. The countries the subjects of Hammond’s works live in don’t want these stories to be heard. People are silenced by fear. Where Love Is Illegal was created to help by giving those people a voice and to create a forum for their stories to be shared and discussed.
So far, Robin Hammond has visited seven countries for Where Love Is Illegal, documenting stories from 65 people of 15 different nationalities. Those he photographed decided how they wanted to be seen on their on terms. They chose whether they wanted to show their faces or not and they also wrote down and recorded their own testimonies.
On Friday, the 17th of June, loads of Berliners came to Jarvis Dooney Galerie in Mitte, to see some of these portraits and read their testimonies. Robin Hammond himself was present, giving a little speech about his project, later patiently shaking hands and answering questions on this emotional evening, only a few days after the LGBTI community got attacked and traumatized by the horrible shooting that took place in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Being in this crowded gallery, even though I didn’t know anybody, felt like a beautiful family gathering. Feeling desperate, reading the stories of these women and men from Nigeria, Syria or Uganda, I knew that everyone in the room felt the same. But there was also a sense of hope in the air.
How brave it is to show your face and tell your story, even though you could suffer from the consequences of that action. To not deny who you are – what an ultimate act of bravery and liberation. I felt reminded of how important it is to not compromise yourself. We Berliners do enjoy a freedom other people do not have. It’s not just our duty to celebrate this freedom, but also to fight for others to be able to do the same. We are more than a community of party people, Tinder dates or anonymous lovers, we are a force of loving, caring hearts and we can support each other, here in Berlin and around the globe.
Where Love is Illegal is being displayed at the Jarvis Dooney Galerie in Berlin from June 17th till July 16th as an entirely non-profit exhibition.
Where Love is Illegal
June 17th-July 16th
Jarvis Dooney Galerie