Ziv Sade has been a photographer for over 14 years. During his career, he’s photographed national ad campaigns and celebrities like Larry King and Nicole Richie. But now, he’s tackling a new task: photographing the LGBTQ+ people of Orange County, California. Sade states that when he moved to Orange County, he was worried there wouldn’t be a vibrant community. What he discovered, however, proved otherwise. Now, he’s teamed up with the OC LGBTQ Center to advocate for individual beauty, confidence, and assurance through his new photo collection, titled The Coast is Queer. Read on to discover more about Ziv Sade and his grassroots advocacy through photography.
Can you tell us about the subjects in your photographs? What drew you to them and their story? What stood out and interested you about them?
I’m always drawn to the special and unique. I love people who exude special energy. After moving to Orange County…which I originally worried would be more conservative…I was introduced to a vibrant LGBTQ community, and it was like a whole new world was opened up to me.
Each person I’ve photographed is very different. They all have very different styles and personalities. But the one thing they all share is confidence, which I respect so much. I love that they’re so comfortable with who they are. I really admire that about them!
These photos are an exhibition of queerness, but I feel like many people don’t quite know what “queer” is. So, in your own words, what does queerness mean to you?
You know, tons of people ask me this. I think queerness is something that LGBTQ people have within them. Growing up different from the rest of society naturally makes you different. And so we find ourselves with this natural sense of curiosity, and different levels of identity. To me, queerness is the concept of soul searching your way through what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community.
I feel like a lot of people think “queer” is a sexuality. But you seem to talk about it like it’s a form of curiosity and searching. Do you think it’s a defined sexuality?
I definitely see queerness as an act of discovery. I think queerness can be applied to anyone who is learning to discover themselves and who isn’t willing to conform to a generalized norm. That’s how it’s always felt to me. I don’t like being defined, and I think a lot of other people don’t, so I think that’s queerness. Queerness is the concept of being willing to keep asking questions about yourself.
And that’s one of the things all the subjects in my photographs have in common. No matter your “title” in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, or whatever community or sub-community you belong to, at the end of the day, you’re uniquely you. You are your own person. Queerness is the ability for you to find yourself, despite the fact that everyone else is always trying to label you.
You also took part in an Instagram Live series for The Coast is Queer, in partnership with the OC LGBTQ Center, to talk about the photo series, and to interview some of the people who participated. Can you tell me a little bit about how that went?
Each episode centered around one of the individuals I photographed, and everyone I photographed has a connection to Orange County. In each episode, we talked about different topics, like bullying, gender fluidity, religion, and the history of queerness. It was a wonderful series. It wasn’t scripted. They were genuine, raw, and emotional. We wanted to really address questions that people have, but may be too afraid to ask. The entire project was super interesting and eye-opening. The interviews are all archived on the LGBTQ Center’s Instagram page, so people can view them at any time!
I also think I’ve heard that you’re now selling your photographs and that a portion of the proceeds will go to help fund the OC LGBTQ Center’s outreach programs?
Yes! The LGBTQ Center was really helpful in giving me a platform, so I wanted to make sure that I’d be able to give back to them. So, 15% of the sale of these photographs will go towards the Center. They offer things like mental health support, guidance, community partnerships, and more. I think they’re doing some really wonderful things in the community, and so it was very important to me to help out in any way I could. We’re even planning to collaborate again for PRIDE this summer, which I’m really excited about!
To check out the collection, or to purchase, check out The Coast is Queer website.
To learn more about Ziv Sade, visit his website.