Gioncarlo Valentine on curating the “visual narrators” of podcast Being Seen
As series two launches with guests including Lena Waithe and Drag Race’s Shangela, we speak to the co-curator about his work with Texas Isaiah to tell its stories through photography.
- Jenny Brewer
- 11 May 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Being Seen is podcast exploring the role of culture in how we are seen, and how we see ourselves, focusing on the gay and queer Black male experience. Produced by New York-based creative agency Harley & Co with activist and author Darnell Moore, in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, the series features conversations with artists, writers, activists, entertainers and community leaders around themes contributing to HIV stigma, such as mental health, sports and fatherhood, looking at representation and its impact. Now, after winning many fans and a Clio Award, it’s returning for season two with guests including Lena Waithe and Drag Race’s Shangela. Accompanying each episode is a set of photographs, shot by a different person each time whose work relates to the topics at hand. These are expertly curated by photographers Texas Isaiah – the first trans person to shoot a Vogue cover – and Gioncarlo Valentine, who shares his insights to the unique project.
The duo have co-curated the photography for both series together, each time starting out by discussing the themes of each episode, then separately putting together a list of photographers they’d like to work with on each. “I think we both want to make sure that the images and the image makers that we work with feel varied, inclusive, and up to the standard of the podcast itself, which takes a measured and thorough approach to each episode and its guests,” Valentine tells us. Overall, he says they wanted the imagery to feel “poignant, timeless, and expansive,” as well as speaking to the urgency of the subject matter. “We are both students of photography,” he adds, “and deeply invested in the work of our peers, so coming up with photographers that we believe are truly special is always fun and easy.”
Together, Texas Isaiah and Valentine built a list of Black and Brown photographers whose work they felt held “long-lasting power, perspective, and importance,” and represented unique voices in the community. These include Jah Grey, Erik Carter, Clifford Prince King, Shan Wallace, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr, Faith Couch, Nate Palmer, Kennedi Carter, Widline Cadet and Hannah Price, plus the curators themselves. Each image speaks to a theme or topic from a specific episode. For example, when curating imagery for the episode discussing the intimacies and challenges of the barbershop, Valentine says they both “immediately thought of Antonio Johnson’s phenomenal book, You Next and his vast body of work on the topic. It felt like a no-brainer”.
For an episode about health, Valentine says they thought “the many visualisations and perspectives to the topic and landed on Miranda Barnes work. The images we chose from touched on health inside of the Black community, but sought to look deeper considering climate, environment, and physical health inside these spaces”.
“We tried to think about each episode as a challenge,” he adds. “What is a photographic response to the idea of fatherhood, access, or mentorship?”
Being Seen series two is out today (11 May 2021), and you can see all the accompanying photography and artwork on each episode’s page on the podcast’s website. Hear more from Isaiah and Valentine in episode six.
GalleryBeing Seen photography curated by Texas Isaiah and Gioncarlo Valentine
Antonio Johnson: Barbershop, for Being Seen podcast photography, curated by Texas Isaiah and Gioncarlo Valentine (Copyright © Antonio Johnson, 2021)