New York City-based photographer Matthew Dean Stewart is no stranger to cranking out edgy, inspiring images of members of the LGBTQ community. Only a year and a half ago, Hornet was in awe of his very first book of photography, Fragile Masculinity, in which he challenged gender norms by presenting images of male models in dresses. Now Stewart has released another book containing his work called Queerdo — just as edgy, and still a showcase for queer bodies, but with an even more fanciful objective.
Queerdo combines Stewart’s portrait photography with the imaginative, colorful illustrations of Stevie Hannigan — literally drawn on top of the photos — to celebrate the unique diversity of queer bodies in a way we’ve never seen.
“We’re all sexy, desirable, powerful and lovable in whatever sack of skin we’ve been given,” says the book’s artist statement. “We hope this book acts as a reminder that true worth can only come from within, uniqueness is a gift, and your queerdo family has your back.”
The recently released hardcover book is 60 pages of queer bodies interacting with Hannigan’s fantastical creatures. Below, check out several images from Queerdo, along with our sit-down with Matthew Dean Stewart.
Here’s Hornet’s Q&A with Matthew Dean Stewart about celebrating the uniqueness of queer bodies in his new book, Queerdo:
HORNET: Tell me about how the idea for Queerdo, in which you combine your photos with another artist’s illustrations, came about?
MATTHEW DEAN STEWART: My creative collaborator Stevie Hannigan and I work together on an enamel pin company called GAYPIN’, and we have been wanting to do something together. So when I was staying in Los Angeles last summer we came up with this idea of me taking pictures of queer people, and him illustrating on top of them.
I took 90% of the photos last summer, with a few add-ons when I moved back to NYC. It was a project a year in the making, but it was such a labor of love for the both of us. We are immensely proud of this project and so excited to get it out there!
What’s the message you’re intending to convey?
We wanted to create a body of work where everyone was celebrated. It’s not a giant political statement like works I have done in the past, like my book Fragile Masculinity [check out Hornet’s sit-down with Stewart about his previous book here], but instead a true celebration.
Every single model who came in knew that we were there to enhance their queerness and really show off the happy side of the community.
Queerdo features a wide array of queer bodies, of various backgrounds, shapes and sizes. Why was that important to you?
It’s first off so important to show off all of these things because we live in a world where inclusivity is very limited, even in the queer world. It’s all of our responsibility as artists to use our resources to help the community and not set us back.
We wanted to showcase everyone and how they identified in whatever way they identified, also while letting them show as much or as little skin as they were comfortable with. We are all living a queer life with different identities and body types and backgrounds, and this was to really highlight all those differences that make us a diverse community.
Earlier this month you unveiled Queerdo with a gallery opening and launch party. What was the public reception to the new book? What did people have to say?
We did, and it was such a blast! Neither of us have ever done a launch party for something that we created, so it was so fun to be able to unveil the books to all of our friends in L.A.
The overall response was so lovely and amazing, and we are so happy that we got to be in the same city as each other to share that moment. Overall, people love the lighthearted cuteness of the book, which is something both Stevie and I wanted to do when making it together. Plus, doing it at A Love Bizarre created by our friend Nathan Rapport and Neon Altar was amazing, seeing as how it is a queer-inclusive retail space in the heart of L.A.!
As a NYC-based photographer, what’s next for you? Any other unique projects currently in the works or on the horizon?
Doing a book is a long and tiring experience, full of lots of ups and downs. So for me right now I am focusing on finding the next project that really speaks to me.
Trying to live in a world of “If instagram goes down tomorrow, what will you do with your work, how will the world see it?” which is such an interesting place to live in. Social media runs our lives, and as artists it is (most) of our ways of getting the work out there. So doing things like books and zines and gallery openings is a fun and exciting way to showcase work that is not specifically made for content on social media.
So stay tuned for the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, as I hope to be constantly making work for the queer community that we all can relate to and be a part of!