Our upcoming photographic exhibition, Love, Hugs + Kisses is one of those projects. A celebration of diversity through the exploration of beauty, authenticity and strength to be found in being our true selves, the exhibition opens on 23 January as part of Midsumma 2020.
A compendium to our upcoming documentary, Love, Hugs + Kisses (another love project we’re working on), the exhibition is a love letter to Melbourne’s legendary underground club and queer favourite, Hugs + Kisses. Housed upstairs from the headquarters of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, located down one of Melbourne’s hidden laneways, over its nine-year life, the club evolved into a space that a generation of mainly LGBTIQ+ people and their allied friends made their own. It was about music, about being part of an underground scene, about fashion and culture and identity. And through those things, a loose and liberating attitude set the tone and became the magical ingredients for the club’s enduring popularity and success.
When Hugs + Kisses opened its doors for one final, epic end of era party, we were there. We wanted to capture the creativity, empowerment and pride that radiated from the punters, plus the mayhem and craziness that the club was infamous for. We created a pop-up studio in the laneway outside the club’s entrance and took portraits of clubbers. Collaborating with our friend and photographer, Nik Epifanidis, we allowed about five minutes per subject. Nik’s a great photographer – he has an ability to connect with his subjects and put them at ease – no small thing when the subject is not used to being photographed either. Somehow Nik persuaded each subject to focus on the single emotion they wanted to convey in their portrait. And the results are simply stunning.
The portraits are beautiful and brave. The subjects are cheeky and provocative and strong and defiant. But what comes through is pretty simple:
We’re not all from the same generation. We’re not all the same gender. We’re not all straight. We don’t all speak with the same accent, believe in the same God or live in the same community.
Asked by the Gaurdian in 1993 what he most deplored in others, the late nightlife icon, and performance artist hailing from Sunshine, Melbourne Leigh Bowery replied: “The urge to categorise: if you label me, you negate me.”
We like to think Leigh Bowery would have not only approve of Hugs + Kisses, but would have been among the stars at the club. We hope you visit the exhibition and experience through the portraits and immersive media, a little of the magic that was Hugs + Kisses and the community it nurtured.