When we decided on discrimination as the topic for our collective project, I wasn't sure how it was going to work. I wanted to find a unique story that could build a really impactful collective piece. So I thought about intersectionality. Not very often do we hear about marginalized communities discriminating against their own members for their differences, yet it is very common.
Ellie Gaustria, 23, is a student at Santa Fe College. She is black and indigenous, bisexual and transgender. She has experienced discrimination in the form of transphobia, homophobia, bisexual erasure, racism, sexism and so much more simply for being who she is. All her life she's stood in a deadly intersection.
I decided this project would be executed best as a photo essay and audio story, so I could really focus on her and what she had to say. During our interview, she explained intense moments of fear, anger, and joy, all of which she's experienced in relation to her many identities. I took photos of her at home, getting ready to go out to dinner, at the restaurant, and at her friend's home where she hung out for game night. By doing all this, I learned the importance of being able to "break bread" with your subject (as Professor Gary Green would say). I was able to get much more raw photos by spending more time with her, eating dinner and playing games with her.
This also made it easier when it came time to get photos and audio of her at Gainesville's Transgender Day of Remembrance event. Again I followed her home, followed her on the bus there, and stuck by her side the entire night. Despite having to manage taking photos in almost complete darkness, it was such a sobering experience. She really allowed me to get up close and personal. I was able to record her speech, along with more than 17 minutes-worth of names of murdered transgender people who were murdered around the world in the past year. I captured people deep in thought as those names were read aloud. Then, when I edited all the photos and pieced all the sound together, I tried to recreate those moments for the listener.
Although this story comes out of a topic I wish I didn't have to cover, a topic I wish she didn't have to experience, it was definitely an eye-opening experience.
Listen to her story: Ellie Gaustria: Life's Deadly Intersection