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Exploring queer joy with the Poster Project

Art: Aiesha Wong

Words: Ellen Kenny

The Poster Project invites creatives across Ireland to submit a photo or poster that celebrates queer solidarity.

In June 2021, artist and photographer Dónal Talbot was living in Faithlegg, County Waterford, when he noticed an alarming rise in LGBTQ+ discrimination. After spotting a “straight pride” poster, learning of yet another homophobic attack during Pride Month, and hearing of homophobic graffiti splayed across Dublin’s PantiBar, Dónal had enough. 

To counteract the growing rhetoric and violence around him, Dónal launched the Poster Project. He put out an open call to artists to create art celebrating queer joy and community. The dozens of posters were then hung up around Waterford.

Dónal never intended to relaunch the Poster Project. Until his friend, Robyn Deane, and her girlfriend were victims of a brutal homophobic assault on May 16. 

“When that happened, it shocked me,” Dónal told District, “In some ways, we have come so far as a nation in terms of the LGBTQ+, but when that happened, it was like ‘what the fuck, this is still happening’. So it was a real shock.”

Image: @culchie_spice
Image: @culchie_spice

A year on from his first Poster Project, Dónal noticed that while LGBTQ+ rights have progressed in many ways, “in others, it feels like one step forward and ten steps back.”

Dónal realised how homophobia remains rampant in Ireland when his friend was attacked. Dónal also realised how much fellow queer people and allies want to support the LGBTQ+ community when he raised 15000 euros in one day for Robyn’s hospital treatment and post-trauma aftercare. Dónal realised the Poster Project had to be relaunched. 

“I was having a conversation with Robyn, and she said she wanted to get involved in the Poster Project this year. We both realised that it is something still really necessary to do in terms of visibility and solidarity within the community.”

“There was this moment of realisation that the project is still something that needs to happen to get queer solidarity and joy out there.”

Dónal Talbot on why he relaunched the Poster Project

The Poster Project, led by Dónal, Robyn and Andrew Shannon, invites creatives across Ireland to create a photo, poster or graphic design that expresses queer solidarity. Whether it’s a punchy slogan or a carefully curated photograph, the Poster Project wants your talent and support. 

“The Poster Project lets people have their own voices heard within the public sphere,” Dónal explains, “They’re creating posters about bringing the community together and the issues faced by the community for everyone to see.”

“We’re looking for something that has a clear message or something that resonates with people, a striking image that people remember.”

Image: The Poster Project
Image: The Poster Project

Even though progress has been made, it is still not safe to be queer in Ireland. Many queer people are still attacked or killed simply for being who they are. 

Along with Robyn, Evan Somers was severely assaulted on April 10 outside The George, resulting in him being hospitalised with a broken eye socket and two fractures to his ankle. There were five homophobic attacks in Dublin in one month (that we know of), with some victims ending up in a critical condition in hospital. Aidan Moffit and Michael Snee were both brutally killed in Sligo last April.

As Dónal points out, Ireland still does not have specific legislation that addresses hate crimes. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee introduced the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill in 2021. Still, there is absolutely zero urgency to pass this despite rising cases of homophobic violence.

There has also been a rise in transphobic and homophobic rhetoric in Irish media. You would be hard-pressed to find an Irish media outlet that hasn’t recently platformed a transphobe, or “gender critical activist”, as they like to be called. 

RTÉ is the latest outlet to come under fire following three days of transphobic “debates” questioning the right of people to identify themselves and simply live in peace. 

“Representation is one of the most important factors of LGBT resistance and community. It’s really important we see ourselves represented in Irish media in a way that we agree with and respect.”

Dónal Talbott

Dónal believes that the Poster Project is deeply important to counteract this anti-LGBTQ+ movement and remind queer people in Ireland that they are not alone. 

“Representation is one of the most important factors of LGBT resistance and community. It’s really important we see ourselves represented in Irish media in a way that we agree with and respect.”

Dónal also hopes the project inspires change in its own small way. Although he firmly believes that genuine and tangible change must come from those at the top, Dónal also believes that “when we see that something hasn’t changed in our everyday life and society, we often have to be the ones to make the change. That’s particularly true of queer people.” 

“There is this world of people who don’t have an education on trans rights and queer rights, on the things we go through every day.”

Dónal hopes the Poster Project will alert allies to more queer issues and sprout conversations across Ireland.

As a photographer, artist and activist, Dónal is keenly aware of the power of a good poster: “[Art] is a way of translating a social issue or topic that is important to you into a creative outlet which can make it easier to connect with people.”

While an essay or speech can offer people in-depth analysis of LGBTQ+ issues and a film can provide a thoughtful gaze into queer lives, Dónal argues that a poster is “often more powerful, because it is a visual reminder and cue of different issues we see as queer people.”

“The format of a poster gives an element of short and direct information; it’s a way of condensing the information into something more easily translated and shared.”

It is the unique element that attracted NCAD graduate Dónal to queer photography: “I always knew I wanted to share and empower and explore more into queer art and queer issues, and I found photography as a way to document that”

To empower and explore queer art, Dónal often lets the models take the lead in photoshoots: “It’s really important to me to develop relationships with the models of my photographs. So often, they are photographs of friends. It’s about creating a relationship and building trust to build a narrative with someone.”

People can get involved in the Poster Project by submitting their art to donal.talbot@gmail.com. Any art is welcome, as long as it captures queer pride and solidarity at its core. People can also get involved by donating to the project’s GoFundMe. The group will be meeting Thursday, June 23, on Dame Street to hang up the posters submitted so far.

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