Charis welcomes JEB (Joan E. Biren) in conversation with Alexis Pauline Gumbs for a celebration of the reissue of her legendary book, Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians. In 1979, JEB (Joan E. Biren) self-published her first book, Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians. The work was revolutionary for its era. JEB made photographs of lesbians from different ages and backgrounds in their everyday lives—working, playing, raising families, and striving to remake their worlds. This event is co-hosted by Sinister Wisdom. Sinister Wisdom is a multicultural lesbian literary & art journal that publishes four issues each year. Publishing since 1976, Sinister Wisdom works to create a multicultural, multi-class lesbian space. This event takes place on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. Register here.
The photographs were accompanied by writings from acclaimed authors including Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Joan Nestle, and others. Various women pictured in the book also shared their personal stories. Eye to Eye signaled a radical new way of seeing--moving lesbian lives from the margins to the center, and reversing a history of invisibility. More than just a book, it was an affirmation of the existence of lesbians that helped to propel a political movement. Reprinted for the first time in forty years, Eye to Eye is a faithful reproduction of a work that still resonates today. This edition features additional essays from artist and writer Tee Corinne, former World Cup soccer player Lori Lindsey, and photographer Lola Flash.
JEB (Joan E. Biren), is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker. She is best known for her groundbreaking work in chronicling the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In 1979, Biren self-published her first book, Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians, a pivotal work that documented the everyday lives of lesbians in the United States. Her second book, Making a Way: Lesbians Out Front, was released in 1987. JEB has been featured in many notable publications, including The New York Times, Vogue, and The Atlantic. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York, the national Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and the Academy of Arts in Berlin, Germany among other places. JEB, now in her 70s, lives surrounded by chosen family and frequently tries to retire from photography and filmmaking. Her plan is never to retire from social justice activism.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a poet, independent scholar, and activist. She is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, M Archive: After the End of the World, Dub: Finding Ceremony, and Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons From Marine Mammals.
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The women in these portraits were some of the first dykes I ever laid eyes on, and the book feels like a lost family album. -Alison Bechdel