“I want to focus on finding my place as a gay Black man in the religious world that I was birthed into,” declares Los Angeles-based photographer and creative designer Caleb Griffin.
The artist’s recent Holy Gestures series does just that. Replete with plush purples and an extraordinary satin church hat, the photographic series sifts through Griffin’s upbringing in the heart of the Bible Belt: Montgomery, Alabama. “Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence,” he writes in his artist statement. “Understanding my own emerging queer sexuality within this paradigm was extremely complicated.”
As a pastor’s son, Baptist doctrine dictated the now 24-year-old Griffin’s youth—even the media he consumed hewed close to the church’s worldview. As such, the young artist struggled to find a comfortable place within the rigid confines of his religious community. Holy Gestures works to define which aspects of Griffin’s identity were built upon these social expectations, allowing the artist to choose which parts of his upbringing he’ll carry into adulthood.
In Holy Gestures, Griffin dons his father’s opulent pastoral robe—a silken purple garment signifying legacy, heritage, and spirituality. His mother’s fabulous Sunday hat, topped with a pink satin bow, also makes an appearance. Not only does Griffin wear these items, testing their fit, he also “want[s] to reflect on the visceral experience queer bodies have with religious objects.”
The colors and patterns in Holy Gestures drown Griffin in elaborate detail, his often face turned away from the camera’s eye. Using careful compositions and thoughtful details, the artist navigates a thorny path between self-discovery and a deep-seated love for his family.
“Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence.” — Caleb Griffin
All photos published with permission of the artist.
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