Ugo Woatzi’s photographs reference real and imagined spaces caught between the worlds of freedom and constraint. He reveals and yet conceals, as a chameleon changes colour to blend in and survive. Ugo’s collaborative process is a reflection of the desires and struggles of his community. Together they create a more sensitive and accepting world, one that both escapes from and confronts the harsh realities of divisive heteronormative structures. The images, tender yet defiant, transmute feelings of love and of conflict, a relatable and universal sense of longing. His sensuous, quietly intimate gaze taps into subtler aspects of human desire — and yet these seemingly accessible emotions are simultaneously blocked in an act of obfuscation. His concealment of faces and identities evokes the fear, censorship and stifling experienced by queer communities across the globe.
Ugo invites us to consider and celebrate a range of masculinities, performative bodies, psyches, and experiences, as he explores the idea of “visibility” as one fraught with both fear and excitement. This duality is embodied powerfully in Ugo’s work, which is both a performance and a lived reality, the speaking of truths and the creating of fictions. That is the nature of photography: to create new worlds from fragments of previous ones. It is in this new world, in the sensitivity of Ugo’s gaze, that we finally access a space of acceptance.
- Text by Michelle Harris (.TIFF)