Nydia Hartono On LGBTQ Photography

Jan 22, 2019 · 2 min read
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Courtesy: @nydiahartono

Why photography?

As the youngest kid, “baby” was my identity. Photography helped me be silly, sexy, connected. I feel empowered, love making people feel good, love themselves better.

I prefer analog photography; holding something tangible, processing, waiting, scanning negatives, developing film. It helps me bond with work.

Lessons from photography?

I confront my flaws, practice self love, acceptance. My body is a flesh cocoon. Photography helps me see myself objectively, without affect by ego and media. After publishing self portraiture, I felt release, growth.

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Courtesy: @nydiahartono

Beauty is universal?

There’s a scientific lens: evolution, survival of the fittest, procreation. There’s a line, but it’s arbitrary. But you should decolonise yourself from it: big eyes, sharp nose, fair skin, blonde hair, be “white,” etc.

LGBTQ activism?

Visibility. It begets understanding, compassion, empathy. It’s lazy to accept Section 377A.

“Are We Queer Yet?” helped me understand gender and sexuality, subvert the male gaze, see bodies in a non-binary way. Private versus public. Gender performance. Self love.

Are Singaporeans largely against 377A?

Yes. It’s complacency. Religion. That’s why the biggest failure of my work is a neutral reaction.

Nathan at Pink Dot.

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Courtesy: Contented

He was approached. I was overseas. I didn’t know how big he was in Singapore. I was proud, but shocked; what’re my parents going to say? He could lose sponsorships.

It was the first time he took a controversial political stand. There was backlash against posters at Cathay Cineleisure. Rumours he’s gay resurfaced.


I’m super grateful to have chatted with Nydia about social issues personal to us. As a non-photographer, I identified with Nydia’s explanation of photographing others as expression, like how I enjoy chatting with people and sharing their stories. Beyond personal fulfilment, I also admire the authenticity in her activism, a gene she and Nathan should be proud to share. It’s not enough to shoot photos, write words, sing songs – know why.

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