Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Matthew F. Rarey

Committee Member(s)

James Paul Hansen
Meredith Gadsby


South Africa, Photography, Queer, Portraiture, LGBTI, Zanele Muholi


This paper focuses on contemporary South African photographer Zanele Muholi’s (b. 1972) extensive photographic archival project, Faces and Phases, which documents South Africa’s black queer community. The series exists not only as a book published in 2014, but as an exhibition that has been shown globally. In the introduction to their book of the Faces and Phases series Muholi states their goal as “[articulating] the collective pain [black lesbians] as a community experience” (emphasis mine). Yet the series, composed of over two hundred black and white portraits, is made up of photographs of individual black lesbians. This paper explores the central tension between the seclusion or isolation that is evident in the portraits of Faces and Phases and the objective of community representation that Muholi notes as their goal for the project. Both Faces and Phases's place within a legacy of colonial archival projects and the contemporary display practices associated with the project will be examined to understand the subversive qualities of the series as a postcolonial archive. Using queer theory, I will consider the display of Muholi’s archive as a queering of the colonial archival projects that have dominated South African visual history. Case study exhibitions from around the world of Muholi’s work will be compared to other artist reimaginings of the archive such as Santu Mofokeng’s The Black Photo Album / Look at Me 1890-1950, and examined individually in order to establish the affect of display on photographic archival projects.