The Photographer Who Captured 20th-Century Queer Life
The Atlantic, June 19, 2019

By Hannah Giorgis

In her classic 1975 self-portrait, the lesbian photographer Joan E. Biren (or “JEB,” as she is more commonly known) tacitly shifts the meaning of a road sign. Smiling, with a glint in her eye, she leans comfortably against the post, her confident posture signaling a reconfiguration of the word emblazoned above her head: DYKE points not to the Virginia town the sign is announcing, but to the photographer herself. Self-Portrait, Dyke, VA (1975) is a reclamation of the slur and a confrontation with all but JEB’s most kindred viewers.

JEB’s cheeky photo is among several other works by the documentarian being shown as part of Art After Stonewall, 1969–1989, an exhibition currently on view at New York City’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and Grey Art Gallery.

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