Last June, we were collectively grieving—and spurred to action by—the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others; outraged by the continued reports of missing Black trans youth; and only a few months into a confusing and devastating health crisis. One year later, not everything has changed. But, mercifully, what is different is our ability to (somewhat) connect with each other, in person, again.
As more and more of us are able to reunite, it’s almost impossible for us to fully grasp yet what we’ve just been through. We’ll all carry the pain and trauma of the past year and a half within us for a long time. But one thing is clear: Our personal wellness will always be deeply tied to the well-being of our communities, and investing in the health of our communities is just as important as taking time for self-care. This past year showed us that we had the strength to show up for each other again and again, even when it wasn’t easy or straightforward.
In honor of a hopefully very different Pride this year, we asked five LGBTQ+ photographers to show us what community means to them. You can see their beautiful images and hear directly from them below. As we reflect back on a year of isolation, activism, despair, and determination, we hope that all of you can take a moment to celebrate the fact that, even in a year where we were largely unable to be together, we still showed up for each other—loved ones and strangers alike—in ways large and small. Our June Pride cover series is our way of paying homage to the power of community as both foundation and force in all of our lives, especially for those who are LGBTQ+. We hope you find them as joyful, inspiring, and hopeful as we do.
The Photographer: Andy Jackson
“Pride means community and family to me. When you look at the photo, there is a feeling of connection with the talent. What made this important is that these are people who are in my life that I love and cherish. I have seen them all bloom in the past few years, which is why I used flowers to convey the feeling of blossoming into your own. Our journeys varied, but we were able to see one another be the person we all wanted to be while they had my backs and I had theirs. Pride is about uplifting and taking care of one another, even when we cannot bloom on our own sometimes.
It was important to shoot this with people that are important in my life and to me given the fact that a year ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this with them. It was a special moment to connect with each and every person in this photo. To have been close to one another would have been unfathomable, but I think in many ways the flowers that connect, the bodies that are intertwined with one another show how beautiful human connection is after the height of the pandemic. We were all struggling during a difficult time, but this community that was distanced between computer screens and phones have been now able to finally face one another once again.” —Andy Jackson
The Photographer: MaryV Benoit; The Model: Chella Man
“My pride is not exclusive to one month. My love to Chella, who I spent the whole pandemic with, is so infinite.” —MaryV Benoit
“My sense of pride has not changed. Pandemic or not, I will always be proud of who I am and the resilience of my communities and family.” —Chella Man
The Photographer: Emily Lipson
“To me, Pride is about being unapologetic about my love for my partner in both private and public spaces. It’s about being unafraid and uninhibited. I used to crush on Paige, now my girlfriend, in between the partitions at work at the World Trade Center (romantic setting!). As photo producers at different brands, I would linger on passing comments she would say to me in the bathroom, hallway, over Slack, or at the copy machine. Are we flirting? I would routinely ask myself following our interactions. Flash-forward two years: We are now dating, working together, and we moved in together during quarantine. So, this image of us kissing, to me, fully embodies us living our pride—being unapologetic about who we are, our love, and not caring how others will see us. And it feels damn good!” —Emily Lipson
The Photographer: Nico Kartel
“During the tumultuous time we’ve all faced within the last year and a half, pride has meant more to me than I originally thought. It placed so many things into perspective for me. Things like my art and the way I create it and the way I love myself and others, whether platonic or romantic. It has meant patience and trusting the process of things, it has meant continuing to be headstrong throughout adversity because it’s the only thing that will get you through, it has meant that genuine intentions will carry you further in this world than anything else ever will. Pride during this pandemic means standing firmly in my truth no matter how good, bad, and ugly it may be sometimes.
With this project, I want to take self-portraits that not only embody the title of SELF magazine but also show myself in a newer light. I want to capture myself with a lover whose sexuality is unknown to the masses, and it hinders the way sometimes we truly value love both within ourselves and with someone else. This is a common struggle that many black gay men deal with in the dating world. I want to capture myself after my 56-pound (and counting) weight loss, I want to capture myself as a newer and brighter individual that’s gained so much knowledge and pride in myself and the purpose that I was placed on this earth to fulfill within this last year and a half. I want to capture myself as a young kid from the South who comes from a primarily West Indian/American background and how uneasy it has been to be me. I want to capture myself in my rawest format.” —Nico Kartel
The Photographer: Ryan Pfluger
“Pride is community. Pride is a riot against being oppressed. Pride is embracing yourself and your chosen family. The pandemic stripped the physicality of community, with marginalized communities especially feeling that impact. For queer people, often our chosen family is the only family we have. I started holding space during the beginning of the pandemic to embrace those connections; to connect when connecting was almost impossible. To give interracial queer couples the gift of being seen. Being seen, embraced, and listened to year-round. Not just during a specified month of capitalized optics.” —Ryan Pfluger