Since the first exhibit in 2011, the 10X10 Photography Project has become a mainstay of Pride celebrations in Toronto. The concept of 10 queer photographers taking portraits of 10 queer Canadian artists was such a tremendous success that the organizers soon developed a 10-year plan — incorporating more than 100 photographers and 1,000 portraits and building a platform on which to celebrate those who have made significant contributions to the city’s thriving queer arts community. Alejandro Santiago, one of the photographers featured in this year’s exhibition, sat down with Xtra recently.
Xtra: Tell us a bit about your work.
Alejandro Santiago: I am always taking photos, whether it’s a concert, theatre, club or portraits. I have been photographing Hotnuts [the party], and somehow those photos made it into the Ryerson Image Centre’s queer photography exhibit, What It Means to Be Seen. I feel really honoured to have my work featured in two exhibitions at once.
Describe the work that you are including in 10X10 this year.
So much of my photography is about collaborating and documenting the work of other artists. I love to magnify someone’s art through my photography and make them the hero of their portrait. I made it a point to spend time with everyone I photographed so that I could better understand how to portray them. Each shoot was different, but they were all collaborative.
What is it about 10×10’s mandate (celebrating queer Canadian artists) that resonates with you?
10×10 was the perfect opportunity for me to photograph artists I love and am inspired by, like Heather Cassils and Robert Lepage. It’s so important to celebrate the culture makers in our community. If I’m taking your photograph, it’s because there is something about you that I want to share with the world.
I feel so lucky to live here. So many great friendships and collaborations have come out of my photography. The queer community in Toronto is so rich; it nurtures so many great young artists. It’s not easy to be an artist anywhere, but Toronto has a great tradition of cultivating artists.