Living in the Real Faerieland - a photo essay
1. Faerie names can be created and changed according to how you feel. One faerie may keep a chosen faerie name for life, or like Whoosh, one may feel that different times in life usher in different feelings, and one’s name can be a direct reflection of this.
2. Spider Cutie, a resident faerie, dresses up for the local farmers market.
3. A Faerie home.
4. Spiral and Flame Tree enjoy the beautiful natural landscape of their home town, choosing the quieter rural life over the urban gay experience.
5. The practice of “Gender Fuck” is akin to cross dressing, only the goal is not to replicate the look of a woman, but simply to “Fuck with Gender.” Mustaches, sequins, penises and frocks are embraced altogether — or one can wear nothing at all but a nice pair of heels.
6. Dragonfly visits Faerieland for a few days. Dress-ups are a fun way to pass the time, and Faerieland has a shed named “Thelma,” dedicated to drag-o-rama. Thelma enjoys an anthropomorphic existence and is a solid part of the community.
7. In defiant response to the lack of public images of gay people being romantic, Climbing Tree Snake and Krishna Bear let me photograph them kissing in the kitchen, like all couples do.
8. Faeries have a tradition of extremely long hello and goodbye hugs. It can be a little unnerving at first, until you finally loosen up and engage with the sense of connection that you can have in the moment.
9. Faeries from all over the region come to Faerieland for a tree-planting day to regenerate the degraded natural forest landscape.
10. Butch, macho, effeminate, young and old faeries in all their glory gather to plant trees at Faerieland.
Faerieland, the Australian Radical Faerie sanctuary is a beautiful forested piece of land that has been the home to the Oz Faeries since 2002 thanks to the vision and dedication of several men who communally own and maintain the property. They have an open door policy that welcomes all gay people who are seeking something more – be it a rural gay experience, sanctuary from a hostile world or a safe space to explore the complex relationships between their spirituality, identity and sexuality.
Celebrating gay culture in rural areas as opposed to the urban gay experience is central to the Faerie movement, which at it’s mythological roots emphasizes Pagan and indigenous culture, although you don’t need to live in the country to be a Faerie and you don’t have to subscribe to any doctrine. It has been said that it can be as challenging to define “Radical Faerie” as it is to define “Human Being.” To be a Faerie is an act of self-definition. What can be said for certain is the Radical Faerie way of life has helped many gay men understand and strengthen their gay identity despite living in a society that at its best accepts but does not understand and at it’s worst rejects and denies the true meaning of being gay.
My personal work has always focused on marginalization and stigma in the context of fringe communities. In this respect the Radical Faeries felt like a natural fit for me. While I am not gay, the common ground I had with the Faeries plight for acceptance was my broader understanding of the detrimental effects of stigma in one’s life. What excited me most about discovering Faerieland was the possibility to photograph a story where the crux for change lies in the culture of the wider society, not within the fringe community itself. It was a joy to photograph a story about love, acceptance and creativity that also carries a strong message about the problems and prejudices in society and culture today.
Claire Martin is a documentary photographer based between in Los Angeles, Calif. and Perth, Australia. She is a member of the Australian Documentary Photo Collective “Oculi.” Her work is distributed through Agency VU in Europe and Redux in the USA.