Morgan Sears-Williams, the recipient of the 2017 Artscape Youngplace Career Launcher prize, has a new exhibit up: SOFT: transformative queer love and care. The exhibit examines queer nightlife as a site of reclamation. “Queer bars have long been spaces of protest, performance and mobilizing community,” writes Sears-Williams. “It holds the voices, sounds, words and spaces of our queer lives and how we share, care and love for each other.” 

We asked her about the project this week.

SDTC: What was your first queer bar experience?

MSW: I think my first queer bar experience was at Yes Yes Y’all in the year I moved to Toronto (2012). I had recently started dating a woman for the first time and was very new to queer life, especially queer nightlife. It was a space that I felt I could occupy, that I could take up without leering glances of hetero men.

Why did you want to focus on it with this exhibit?

This exhibit is weaving in photos of queer nightlife, portraits of chosen families, text and audio from queer people expressing their different versions of queer love and care. It’s important to know that queer nightlife is rooted in protest, in performance and in occupying spaces often denied to queer folks.

I have been photographing queer people in Toronto for four years now, often with a focus on trauma and harassment. One thing I’ve noticed is how we can pull ourselves out of traumas, and I know for myself it is my queer family. It was important for me to focus on the different manifestations of how queer people love and care for each other because that queer love is so transformative. The spaces we dance in and the queer bodies that rub against each other, the queer chosen families and the voices and words of those queer people.

What did you learn about yourself in putting together this show?

These ideas came from feeling them myself. From feeling this transformative queer love not just with my partner, but with the other queer women and femmes in my life who push me to be me. I identify as queer and bi, and the different biphobia and bierasure I’ve experienced can be really heartbreaking and invalidating. To receive love that understands and gets you is incredibly validating and filling.

Which image is especially moving to you and why?

One of my favourite images is of Christopher and Cody. They are the kind of partners that make you feel warm fuzzies. The day we were shooting, we just managed to find the perfect lighting and it felt like they were supposed to be there in that moment. Cody lifted their head and their eyeliner shone and it was like I was watching them in their natural space.

Check out SOFT: transformative queer love and care, running from November 2nd to 24th at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw St) Hallway Gallery, 2nd Floor.