Ms Brini Olsen / Mit Euren Spuren (2023)
The portrait series Ms Brini Olsen is part of the interdisziplinary photo project Mit Euren Spuren. More information on mit-euren-spuren.de.
Over the course of a year, I have portrayed Sabrina Berndt, who was born in Upper Bavaria in 1955. In Munich, she epitomizes the life of a confident and active senior citizen. From her youth she has been active in the travesty scene, as well as being a board member of the „Forum Queeres Archiv“ and a member of the party „Rosa Liste.” She is an essential part of the local LGBTQIA+ community. For Sabrina, being queer means standing up for the community and forming a strong union. A union that can speak out against the state and society, that fends off new aggressions from right-wing extremist groups and that defends previous achievements so that they are not taken away again.
During the late 80s, Sabrina witnessed the challenges of the HIV pandemic firsthand. "In the beginning, we all couldn't believe it, there was a lot of insecurity and we didn't know what the disease was and how it progressed," she says. For a long time, people in Germany didn't know that the disease is a late stage of HIV infection and that only its final manifestation leads to death. In addition to the uncertainty and fear, the stigma towards the gay scene also grew. Political measures such as Gauweiler's radical catalog pushed queer people to the outermost fringes of society at that time. These included, for example, compulsory tests and controls in saunas and bars. Sabrina says: "In the 1990s, the issue was dismissed. People said: 'It's just the gays, it happens to them, it's none of our business' and she remembers a time when she had to go to one of her friends' funerals every month. Her good fortune: Her transition made for a lower risk of infection. "I started gender reassignment at the end of 1986, which was exactly at this time." The hormone therapy with the hormone preparation Androcur led to severe mood swings, an inhibited sex drive and reduced potency.
Mit Euren Spuren is an interdisciplinary photography project involving six photographers from Munich collaborating with LGBTQIA+ seniors. The result is a transgenerational exchange about queer life and the experiences of respective generations.
Over the course of a year, we document the encounters through photographs, texts, and artistic processing of archival materials. In this exchange, we aim to learn from the achievements of previous generations and make queer heritage visible.
Contentwise, our project engages with two central aspects: "Aging Beyond the Cisheteronorm" and "Queer Fights." We critically examine classic milestones in cisheteronormative biographies, such as first love, exploring one's body during puberty, marriage, having children, and aging within the family circle. In the biographies of queer individuals, especially those born over 50 years ago, these milestones often take a different form or are entirely absent.
The occasion for the project is the abolition of the homophobic Paragraph §175, which criminalized sexual acts between men until 1994. For many decades, it symbolized the discrimination and persecution of queer individuals. First introduced in the German Criminal Code of 1871, the paragraph evolved over time with various forms and impacts. Despite the end of the NS regime in 1945, the paragraph persisted, leading to countless personal tragedies and social stigmatization. The complete abolition of the paragraph in 1994 marked a milestone in recognizing the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in Germany and symbolizes the long journey toward equality and acceptance.
The project is a collaboration with the association Forum Queeres Archiv München and is sponsored by Münchenstift GmbH and the Cultural Department in Munich. The project is a cooperation with Stella Deborah Traub, Mara Fischer, Florian Tenk, Joseph Wolfgang Ohlert and Teo Ana Apostolescu.