Rene Matić documents the interior life of a performer

The photographer’s intimate series of their friend, the writer and performer Travis Alabanza, goes on display at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol

“Many of the relationships that permeate the QTPOC (queer, trans, people of colour) community have been birthed in clubs and on dancefloors,” explains photographer Rene Matić.

“They are relationships that exist when the room is always too loud to converse (with words) but you show up and you show out with concern and care together – even just for the night – until the next time.”

Top: Travis getting ready for the National Diversity Awards, London, 2023; Above: Travis and Mia having breakfast, Bristol, 2023. All images © Rene Matić

The club laid the initial blueprint for Matić’s friendship with Travis Alabanza, a Bristol-born performer and author of None of the Above – a book that is part memoir, part social commentary.

When Matić was commissioned by the Martin Parr Foundation in 2022 to create a series focusing on Bristol, the photographer’s response was to document their friendship with Alabanza as it evolved beyond the confines of nightlife spaces, “lit by a table lamp instead of a disco ball”.

Travis and Rene in Mia’s studio, 2023

The series takes a sideways look at their relationship to examine the quiet interior life of someone in the spotlight.

Matić shows the moments associated with a public persona – book signings, makeup being applied before an awards ceremony – but also digs past to the person underneath as they hover alone in a kebab shop or at a bus stop. Some of the most intimate images are of Alabanza at home, facing away from the camera. To turn your back on someone is usually taken as a stand-offish, guarded gesture, but here, between the washing up rack and a tub of Clover, it seems like a silent indication of trust.

Travis at home, Bristol, 2023

Matić captures the moments that are rarely afforded people in the spotlight, least of all those who, as the Foundation puts it, “perform to survive both financially and politically”, and those whose very existence is subject to intense scrutiny by the mainstream.

The body of work is named after a bell hooks quote: “I’m such a girl for the living room. I really like to stay in my nest and not move. I travel in my mind, and that’s a rigorous state of journeying for me. My body isn’t that interested in moving from place to place.”

Southbank Centre dressing room I, London, 2023

A girl for the living room by Rene Matić runs at the Martin Parr Foundation from July 13 – September 17;