A photographer who has been immersed in Washington DC’s culture for over half a century, Leigh Mosley’s work captures moments that evoke wonder and feeling.
Recounting to me her shooting of Let’s Get this Rollin’, perhaps the most iconic photo in this bunch, featuring my Lorde and Saviour Aidrea Geraldine Lorde & Frances Clayton at the 1979 Gay March on Washington, Mosley portrays Lorde as “warm and gracious”. Quite frankly I wouldn’t expect anything less from a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and homophobia.
A year before this photo was taken, Mosley had the chance of spending time at Lorde’s Staten Island home, where she was able to photograph the poet and a couple of her friends, who “posed for every request [she] made”. From then on, Mosley began following Lorde “at every opportunity.” In this photo, Mosley was able to capture the moment when Audre Lorde is leading her partner Frances Clayton to a place where they would stand together behind a flag at the march. Knowing that this march happened on the 10-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, I am able to see and feel the proud conviction and excitement in the eyes of Lorde and the other black women in this photo.
The two additional photos on display in the exhibition, Divas for the Cause and More Money and Support for AIDS, were taken at the 1987 Second National March on Washington for Gay Rights. They beautifully capture two different energies.
In Divas for the Cause Mosley was able to catch Whoopi Goldberg, Casselberry-Dupree and Toshi Reagon “lending to the fervor and enthusiasm of the crowds at the march”. All hailing from NYC, Goldberg, Cassleberry-Dupree & Reagon are caught in the middle of candid conversation, where Goldberg seems to be holding one stance, while her friends are trying to understand and express their own positions. I want so badly to place myself in this moment to hear exactly what Reagon, who had been playing with Cassleberry-Dupree, is about to say to her crew and figure out what Goldberg was pointing or directing them to. I am inspired by Goldberg’s cool, calm and carefree energy while being reminded of the strength as black women that can be expressed through our hair. I wonder, was this hairstyle an intentional expression of freedom or did Mosley happen to catch Goldberg on a day where, like many women who wear protective styles like braids, had miscalculated her energy and motivation to finish taking them out and decided to let the world take her as she is in her rawest form. This photo allowed me to relate to Goldberg, someone I had watched and admired for years, because it is a shared experience of choosing to express ourselves through our hair. Whether its cornrows that map out paths to freedom, half removed protective styles, or changing our wigs every day, black women continue to use hair as a tool for expression and freedom.
With More Money and Support for AIDS Mosley states that she was “searching for feelings of small groups in the 200,000 plus people attending the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights when [she] came upon this particular group.” After taking the photographs of Whoopi Goldberg, Castleberry-DuPree and Toshi Reagon, she “waded into the throng” and found what she considered "the emotional essence of the day.” In this still shot, you can identify exhaustion, excitement, joy, intimacy and support for one another. From every angle you can see people holding each other close, singing, chanting and safeguarding each other. You can see the unity that was shared amongst everyone at this march by simply looking at this uplifting group photo.