When photographer Robert Kalman‘s sister, Hillary, came out in 1976, the first thing he wanted to know was how she was feeling.
“What’s life like for you right now?” he asked her.
“Like holy hell,” she answered before showing him a note their mother had written after hearing the news: “Hillary, I didn’t realize how much you hate me. Signed, Mother.”
That was the impetus for Kalman’s new exhibition, I Am Here: The Lesbian Portraits, opening Wednesday at the Soho Photo Gallery. Inspired by Hillary, who died in 1976, the exhibit will showcase portraits of lesbian women from New York City and Provincetown, along with an answer to the same question Kalman originally asked his sister.
“I hate being underestimated for the way I look—being different is everything to me,” says one.
“Today is better than yesterday,” writes another.
The black-and-white photos are bursting with emotion, providing insight into the lives of the women they portray. But beneath a sense of confidence and acceptance, the images represent a quiet sadness and lingering anxiety of what it means to be an LBGTQ woman in the world. I Am Here ensures these women are seen and heard.
“To be genuinely authentic and carry no shame is a beautiful thing,” writes Kalman in his artist statement. “My sister would have appreciated knowing that.”
I Am Here: The Lesbian Portraits is on view until December 31 at Soho Photo Gallery.