SWITCH is a photography exhibition about gender and sexual identity across two diverse cultures — Australian and Iranian.
In the collaborative project, Jenny Papalexandris focuses on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community in Australia and Damon Ambs’ investigates the life of the LGBTI community in Iran.
An exhibition about LGBTI people would not be possible in Iran, which is partly why Mr Amb left Iran to seek asylum in Australia.
Mr Amb said he felt a sense of freedom to truly express himself in Australia. He recounted his first Mardi Gras parade, saying how shocked he was that two countries could be so different in their policies and attitudes.
“Here in Australia, I can be the voice for my friends in the LGBTI community in Iran and through my art bring attention to these and many other social issues,” he said.
The SWITCH exhibition is part of the Head On Photo Festival, which promotes the work of photographers at all stages of their career, encouraging excellence and innovation.
Mr Amb’s sequence of symbolic switches, which lend their name to the exhibition, represent the prohibited sexualities in Iran.
In Iran, Mr Amb worked as a photographer for an advertising agency but that didn’t satisfy his desire to express his own artistic concepts.
In Sydney, he is being supported by SSI and its Ignite Small Business Start-ups initiative to establish himself as a freelance photographer. His friendship and collaboration with Ms Papalexandris, has been a blessing.
“I am crazy for her work and her ideas, and she has been a great friend and help to me for my photography work in Australia.”
Ms Papalexandris' work focuses on eight narratives of the experience of the LGBTI community in Australia.
“We felt that if the audience could understand what it means to be an LGBTI person living in a restrictive culture like Iran, and compare that to the different issues faced in a more open culture like Australia, then that would be a step in the right direction toward equal representation,” Ms Papalexandris said.
SWITCH is showing at the Stirrup Gallery, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville, until Friday, May 20.
The opening night of SWITCH will be from 6pm to 8pm on Friday, May 13.