Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



Joan E. Biren aka JEB talks Portraits of Lesbians book journey and re-issue
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 1767 times since Wed Apr 21, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

In an era where lesbian visibility was almost non-existent, activist and photographer Joan E. Biren (or as she is also known, "JEB") self-financed and self-published a photography book called Eye To Eye: Portraits of Lesbians.

Biren's 1979 book sold out its first two printings in less than a year and was number one on the LGBTQ booksellers list at the time.

The book has black-and-white photographs featuring lesbians for all races, abilities, body types and age ranges.

The 76-year-old Biren is considered to be the first lesbian photographer to publish a book of out lesbians in the United States. She identifies herself as a "gender non-conforming dyke."

The book was recently re-issued and has the same photograph of a lesbian couple, Kady and Pagan, at their upstate New York home on the cover as the original.

"When Anthology Editions decided to reissue Eye to Eye, I was overjoyed," said Biren. "I am thrilled that my work, in this beautiful new hardback edition, will be easily accessible. Representation is important not just to those who have been erased and ignored, but also for others who need to see and understand people who have been marginalized."

In addition to the many photos, the book also includes reflections from her subjects and poems by Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich and Judy Grahn as well as a new dedication by Biren, an introduction by photographer Lola Flash and an afterword by soccer star Lori Lindsey.

Biren began her photographic journey at the age of 27, saying she wanted to tell people's stories through images, not words. She taught herself through a correspondence course before working at a camera shop and moving on to become a photographer for a small-town newspaper.

One of her mentors—lesbian photographer Tee Corinne, who died in 2006—also contributed an essay for the book. Biren said Corinne was a huge influence on her as she was beginning her photographic journey and cheered her on as she was working on the book.

To get her book published, she had to raise the money herself.

"No existing lesbian or gay press would do it because I wanted it on good paper," said Biren. "I had only ever seen the work on newsprint, and I was determined that it would be on coated stock and that was too expensive for the existing presses. The hardest part was finding a printing press that would print these images.

"I got a very young Nan Hunter, who had just gotten out of law school and turned out to be one of the best lesbian lawyers ever to help me. She developed this legal paper that exempted the press from liability of being sued for slander or defamation by the women for identifying them as lesbians in their publications."

Biren used black-and-white film instead of color because she wanted other lesbians to see the photographs and the only way that was possible outside of buying her book was in "movement newspapers and magazines that could not afford to publish in color."

"It was part of our politics to control as much of the process of production as possible to avoid male domination," said Biren. "There was a risk that your film could be confiscated under the obscenity laws if you sent it to a commercial photo lab. With black-and-white film, I did all my own developing and enlarging."

What set Biren on her journey to document lesbians was her desire to see two women kissing in a photograph so she made a photograph of herself and her then girlfriend Sharon Deevey that she included in the book. The way she got other lesbians to participate was through word of mouth as she traveled the country.

To put her subjects at ease, Biren would spend time with them without her camera. Later, when they felt comfortable Biren would photograph them at their homes and various other places like Pride marches, festivals and women's conferences. The common thread was that these photographs showcased lesbians being their authentic selves.

"As I was embarking on this project, I discovered that there was this enormous hunger among lesbians to see themselves reflected in a way that was real," said Biren. "The existing fake images did not look like anybody we knew; anybody in our friendship circles or our lovers, and so there was this enormous void that I was trying to fill with this book.

"And the pressure that I put on myself was a lot. I thought I would never be able to make another book. So, I wanted this one to have as many different sorts of lesbians in it as possible, so that the most people could find some reflection of their authentic selves."

Due to the time period that this book was originally published, Biren made sure she protected people who did not want to be outed.

"The people in the book, whether they chose to use surnames or not, were risking harassment, getting fired, being ostracized by their families, losing custody of their children and/or facing many other forms of discrimination," said Biren.

Immediately following the publication of the book, Biren went on tour with her Lesbian Images in Photography: 1850-The Present or, as she called it, the "Dyke Show." She later participated in photography workshops called The Ovulars to teach other lesbians the craft. Prior to becoming a photographer, Biren co-founded the lesbian feminist separatist collective The Furies.

In addition to her book, Biren is a filmmaker who directed No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Removing the Barriers, Women Organize! and For Love and For Life: The 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, among others. She also produced and wrote the documentary A Simple Matter of Justice, about the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

When asked what she hoped people would take away from her book especially those who are just discovering it now, Biren said, "I hope that all kinds of people will find the photographs illuminating and energizing. Eye to Eye shows us that lesbians in the 1970s were alive and strong and beautiful. It gives lesbians today a look back into their own history."

Biren is also happy that LGBTQ people are gaining more visibility in the mainstream media in recent years; however, she said that many groups within the queer community are underrepresented.

"We see mostly white, straight, middle-class men in mass media," said Biren. "That must change to include all BIPOC, trans and non-binary people, fat people, poor people, disabled people, old people, immigrants. We need representation that is a true reflection of all the people in our society, knowing that the LGBTQ+ community includes people from every demographic. And it is not just about representation. It is about fighting for social justice. We must change the racist, sexist, capitalist systems that profit from excluding so many people from equal representation and from equal freedoms."

See .

This article shared 1767 times since Wed Apr 21, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

'Homophile' organization New Gay Liberation Front launches
The New Gay Liberation Front—which described itself in a press release as a "homophile organization"—has launched. "Homophile" is a term that was used by some gay and lesbian groups in the 1950s. According to the University ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Teachers, GLAAD talks HRC, 9/11 items, Dr. Rachel Levine
In North Carolina, a former teacher won a lawsuit against Charlotte Catholic High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte after he lost his job following an announcement on Facebook that he planned to marry ...

Gay News

Women & Children First hosting virtual event with Anita Hill on Sept. 29
Anita Hill—the University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's and Gender Studies at Brandeis University who played a major role in the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—will be part ...

Gay News

Constand breaks silence about Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand is breaking her silence to NBC News about the comic/actor's release from prison two months ago, Deadline noted. In a brief clip, Constand tells Kate Snow she "was really shocked — ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Pioneering lesbian business owner Susan Mazer dies
Susan Mazer died August 31 due to COVID-19 complications. She was 77. At the time of her death, Mazer was living in Port Saint Lucie, Florida with her wife Janet Norton. Mazer was born May 10, ...

Gay News

HIV AT 40: Global activist Phill Wilson talks Chicago, the '80s and vaccines
Phill Wilson is one of the best-known HIV/AIDS activists/educators around the globe. The Chicago native was the co-founder of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention. He ...

Gay News

TENNIS U.S. Open to celebrate Pride on Sept. 1
Rainbow flags will be flying at the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wed., Sept. 1, as the USTA celebrates and welcomes the LGBTQ+ community to the first-ever Open Pride ...

Gay News

Report features eight Illinois child-welfare agencies working with HRC Foundation
--From a press release - WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, released a new report ...

Gay News

ART 'Frida Kahlo: Timeless' extended to Sept. 12
"Frida Kahlo: Timeless," hosted by the Cleve Carney Museum of Art (CCMA) and the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at the College of DuPage (COD), has been extended an additional week to Sept. 12. To date, "Timeless" ...

Gay News

WORLD Trapped in Afghanistan, lesbian pioneer, anti-gay crimes, Valencia's bid
Among the Americans trapped in the suburban areas of Kabul, Afghanistan, under Taliban control was Josie Thomas, 32, a transgender government contractor for the U.S. State Department and former U.S. Air Force Sergeant, The Washington Blade ...

Gay News

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame announces 2021 class of new inductees
--From a press release - Chicago, August 17, 2021 — The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF) announced that its 2021 Class of Inductees will include Frank London Brown, Jeanette Howard Foster, Carlos Cortez, and Gene Wolfe. The inductees will be ...

Gay News

Chicago-area author releases book about gay, autistic African-American
PenPower Book Marketing Services and Chicago-area author Jaire Sims have released his debut young adult novel, Getting By, which was named a finalist in the African American (Fiction) category in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book ...

Gay News

COMEDY Cameron Esposito at The Den on Oct. 2
The Den Theatre will present out comedian Cameron Esposito Saturday, Oct. 2d at 8 pm on The Heath Mainstage, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.. Esposito is a standup comic, actor and writer who has appeared across television ...

Gay News

Printers Row Lit Fest returns to Chicago Sept. 11-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO (August 12, 2021) Printers Row Lit Fest, the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest, returns for its 36th year with 100% free programming for book lovers the weekend after Labor Day, Saturday, Sept. ...

Gay News

GLAAD highlights how Olympians used Tokyo Games to call for LGBTQ acceptance
--From a press release - (August 11, 2021) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is highlighting how this year's historic number of out LGBTQ athletes repeatedly stood ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.