Exposure: Quil Lemons

In her regular Exposure column for CR, art director Gem Fletcher highlights the work of photographers who have recently caught her attention. Here, she profiles Quil Lemons, a New York-based photographer who shines a new light on the black experience

Back in 2017, inspired by Frank Ocean’s Nikes video, Quil Lemons posted a photo on social of himself wearing makeup and a constellation of silver stars – a personal act exploring his own identity as a young, queer, black man. The photo elicited mixed reactions from his followers and became the catalyst for a body of work that ignited his career.

Glitterboy, a tender portrait series of black men and boys adorned in glitter, examines the shifting notions of gender and beauty as they relate to masculinity in the black community. “Black men are under such pressure to look tough,” says Lemons. “There isn’t just one way to be masculine.” The series went viral, and Lemons was simultaneously trolled and celebrated – a disorientating introduction to the potent effect images can have on our culture.

Since then, Lemons has built a hybrid practice that blurs the lines between art and fashion. “People love to box us. It’s 2020 – I don’t think labels work any more,” he laughs. “I won’t be condensed into one thing. Nothing is singular.” Fashion has proved a space where he can be larger than life, experimenting with fantasy through a hyper-realistic lens. He plays with the everyday and the people, spaces and ­objects that together build a picture of who we are.

All images © Quil Lemons

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes