Love Letter to Tee Corinne

Two naked figures interlock, each of their legs wrapped tightly around the other's, with one reclined on the floor and the other bracing themself with the other's hands.
From Intimacies, with permission from the publisher. © Tee Corinne.

Queer experience is often characterized by unique relationships to time; for some, a latent identity reveals itself quietly. A slow becoming, especially for those of us who may not have had queer role models in our material reality—it is difficult to become what you cannot see. I often look to queer and lesbian artists to situate myself as a queer, female photographer. One such artist is Tee Corinne, who was a photographer in Oregon, as well as a published writer and activist.

In presenting a lesbian subject vantage point, Corinne’s work expands and elevates depictions of lesbian intimacy with careful consideration. Corinne often utilized solarization printing methods in her portraiture, a darkroom process that partially inverts light and dark tones. In Corinne’s solarized photographs of vulvas, the printing process abstracts the images; labial folds could just as easily be rolling hills. Aside from its beauty, this aesthetic speaks to the social status of lesbians at the time—Corinne’s use of distortion protected the anonymity of her subjects, who weren’t always safe to be “out,” to be seen, in mainstream society.

Corinne’s portraiture notably portrays bodies in a wide array of ages, illness, health, disability, and ability. She intentionally included canes and wheelchairs within her frame and documented her former partner’s changing body throughout cancer treatment. As I look back on these representations that make lesbian sexuality visible throughout the realities of a long life, I can more easily imagine a future for myself.

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