“Pride means everything to me”: five photographers reflect on this year’s London event
Last weekend, the crowds flooded in their millions to central London for the return of Pride. To mark the occasion, we asked five photographers to share an image that they feel best depicts their experiences from the day.
The celebratory hum heard in London’s central streets last weekend was unmissable. In what marked the 50th anniversary of UK’s first Pride parade, this year’s event was an emotional and elated comeback, having been halted for a brief hiatus due to Covid-19.
As the crowds quickly filled the roads in their millions – Soho, Hyde Park, Tottenham Court Road and the like – this hum only increased as the gatherings grew, citing this event as its biggest one to date. With Sugababes and Whitney Houston serving as the welcomed soundtrack for the day, the cast of Netflix’s popular show Heartbreakers and some veteran Pride goers, who’ve been taking part since its inception, were among those in attendance.
It was glorious. And, although this year’s Pride was undeniably positive – a celebration of equality and rights for the LGBTQIA+ community – there was a substantial political undercurrent that ran throughout. There’s still a long way to go. Led by queer activist organisation Lesbians and Gays Support for Migrants (LGSM), the parade was paused for 23 minutes in protest of police officers’ involvement in the parade; each minute depicted the 23 people who’ve been killed in Met Police custody in the last two years. It was a sentiment felt far and wide, reminding the crowds of the reasons why they’re there. So to reflect on London Pride this year, we’ve asked five photographers to share their thoughts on the day and what the event means to them personally.
Pride means everything to me. On a personal level as a queer trans person it encouraged me to come out back in the late 1990s, and has provided an endless experience of community, visibility and inclusion to the present day. Professionally, Pride has consistently gifted me an opportunity to explore the themes of otherness, outrage and witnessing which have dominated my work for the past two decades.
This image documents queer activist group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants participating in a “die in” and halting this years Pride parade in London for 23 minutes. Each minute represented the 23 people who have died in police custody since the start of 2021 and protested the inclusion of Police in the parade, serving as a call out to hold police accountable for violence against LGBTQIA people, people of colour and women.
The parade this year marked 50 years since the first Pride event in the UK. As much as Pride has become a celebration, this image depicts a return to the routes of Pride, as a catalyst for protest and an opportunity to restore the fundamental anti-oppression values of Pride. It felt like a privilege to capture.
“This image depicts a return to the routes of Pride, as a catalyst for protest and an opportunity to restore the fundamental anti-oppression values of Pride.”Bex Wade
I’m currently working on a project where I document the different marches and protests that take place in London. I tend to avoid the louder and more vocal participants that one often sees at the front of these marches. I’m more interested in the quieter people that show their support in a more low-key way.
Steve and Miguel met online 18-years ago and have been a couple ever since. They married four years ago in a civil partnership. They told me their relationship is so good because they always feel so comfortable in each other's company. When I asked Miguel what he liked about Steve, he replied, "He’s my all". Their dogs are called Lucy and Freddy. Lucy is named after the TV series I Love Lucy and Freddy, after the singer Freddy Mercury.
It was actually my first time participating in a Pride parade, I didn’t expect it to be so huge and enjoyable. The vibe there was so nice and I was feeling grateful to see all the participants enjoying. As a hobby photographer, I wanted to capture the precise moment of this event, being able to let audiences feel the same as I feel is my biggest goal.
This image was taken in London, on the day of Pride. Before I took the shot, I asked everyone if they’re willing for me to do so. I like the words on the cardboard as well as how they all look distinctive; the one in the middle has a vivid red dress, which reminds me of how the Chinese government has been banning and persecuting LGBTQIA community by banning the events and parades. It’s really heartbreaking to see such setback, and I hope everyone in the world can enjoy the freedom we all deserve.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see such setback, and I hope everyone in the world can enjoy our freedom as we all deserve.”Luca Tam
Pride was really special to me this year as a close friend of mine had recently come out as trans. All I could see in their face while they were telling me was joy and peace, and that’s what I feel Pride embodies. I asked to take this person’s picture in Piccadilly Circus where a street party was happening outside one of the shops – they particularly caught my eye because of the confidence they exuded. Capturing this felt important because Pride gives people the opportunity to celebrate and be themselves.
I took this photo in the midst of the Pride in London march on 2 July. Today, Pride is for many a parade, a celebration and even a party. But of course it has always been a political event too. It’s often said that ‘Pride is a protest’ and — while the event is largely peaceful and filled with love today — unfortunately there are still a small minority who bring messages of hate.
The photo shows the moment a group of Pride marchers in rainbow flags and slogan t-shirts danced around and sang in response to some religious picketers holding up biblical homophobic quotations at the railings. The young people were spreading joy in the face of hate against them. Somebody in the crowd was playing Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody on a boombox and the group whirled around to it, flags fanning out behind them like capes, huge smiles on their faces. I fired off a few frames in the chaos, from which I selected this one. It shows the young man’s T-shirt with the slogan, ‘Queer was always here’, which felt the perfect antidote to the messages of hate on show behind him. It was only later, watching the news, that I found out the young man is Sebastian Croft, star of Netflix's Heartstopper. Those dancing with him were his mum and co-star Joe Locke. Croft designed the shirt himself and is selling them to raise money for the refugee charity Choose Love. The day was overwhelmingly about love, tolerance and celebrating everybody for who they are and for me this photo captured what Pride is all about.
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.