We had the good fortune of connecting with Kurt Weston and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kurt, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
In my early teens I was attracted to and inspired by amazing photographs featured in some of the most popular publications of that time, magazines such as Look and Life. I was intrigued by the unique portraits of people of every race, culture and walk of life. I would take tare sheets from these magazines and collage them onto the walls of my bedroom. I was also fascinated by the technology of photography the mechanics of the camera, film processing and making prints in the darkroom. I was thrilled when my high school offered a photography class for the very first time. After taking the photography class I was hooked and I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I studied photography at Columbia College in Chicago and received my MFA in photography from California State University, Fullerton. I worked 15 years as a commercial fashion photographer and my fine art photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Houston Fine Arts Museum, California Museum of Photography and the National AIDS Museum. My work has appeared in many publications and has been exhibited internationally. I am currently a member artist of the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Southern California.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My photographic portraits are a celebration of LBGT pride, racial diversity, Trans liberation and otherness. Stylistically I work in the tradition of Robert Mapplethorpe and while studding photography at Columbia College, Chicago and acquiring my MFA from California State University, Fullerton – I prefer working with classic black & white photography.

My luscious black & white prints record, preserve, and share the stories of individuals participating in Pride Parades, living alternative lifestyles and living on the margins of society. It is important, now more than ever to preserve their stories and portraits as a threat has risen to extinguish their stories and perspectives from the public.

Recently, school districts and Republican-controlled state legislatures have rapidly intensified efforts to ban certain books about race, colonialism and gender identity from public classrooms and libraries, while placing sharp limits on what can be taught in schools. According to PEN America, more than 70 bills to impose educational gag orders have been introduced or pre-filed just in the past month. Meanwhile, the American Library Association says it’s received an unprecedented 330 reports of efforts to ban books.

As a legally blind, queer artist the arts have provided me the opportunity to act as a political and social practitioner, representing aspects of my own and my subjects “otherness,” lending me a perspective on the specific human experiences of marginalization, exclusion, and forms of oppression. I continue to dispatch powerful participatory documents from marginalized multi-cultural, multi-racial and countercultural lives to enlighten, educate and delight.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I particularly enjoy West Hollywood, especially during the pride parade. I love the delicious deli food and fun atmosphere of Canter’s deli at 419 N Fairfax Ave. I like Culver City with its eclectic culture and history. The plays featured at the Fountain Theater located at 5060 Fountain Ave are amazing. I enjoy going to LACMA, MOCA and The Broad Museum. In Orange County the artist village in Santa Ana is a must do, especially on the first Saturday of ever month for the artwalk events, please stop in at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art at 117 N. Sycamore to view our exhibitions.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many people to thank for inspiring me and assisting me through life’s ups and downs. I need first to let everyone know that in 1991 I was diagnosed with full blown AIDS and suffered many of the opportunistic infections associated with the disease which nearly ended my life on several occasions. One of the infections was CMV retinitis which left me totally blind in my left eye and partially sighted in my right eye. I fought for several years to save my life and what was left of my sight. Thankfully, the medications used to treat HIV/AIDS improved and my life was spared, but I had to learn how to negotiate my life as a legally blind person. My first shout-out is to the Braille Institute which educated me about low vision magnification devices and assistive technologies for the visually impaired. The Braille also taught me how to use a white cane and inspired me to continue with my photography. My second shout-out is to my fellow artist at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art who accepted me as a blind artist and chose to focus on my ability rather than my disability. My third shout-out is to my husband Terry who has loved, cared and supported my efforts to continue my photography. Ultimately, I have been blessed to have the friendship and assistance of these incredible organizations and people.

Website: www.kurtweston.com

Instagram: kurttweston

Facebook: kurt weston photography

Image Credits
All photographs by Kurt Weston Image 1 – Losing the light – self portrait Image 2 – When the Shame Ends Image 3 – Masquerade Image 4 – White Wedding Image 5- Dream Girl Image 6 – Leatherette Image 7 – Masked Pride Image 8 – Test Positive Image 9 – Safe

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