Jesse Egner

“No Femmes. No Fats.” When I started making profiles on gay dating apps as a teenager, I came across this phrase frequently, defining my body as unwelcome. As a fat queer person with an invisible disability, the rejection from gay communities set in motion a battle between my queerness and the body I inhabit. 

This work began with self-portraiture—an action that felt aggressive towards myself due to my aversion to it, perhaps through years of conditioning to despise my appearance. However, it allowed me to begin a visual exploration into non-normative queerness through the utilization of elements such as absurdity, humor, and the uncanny. I eventually moved on from just self-portraiture and began photographing with other queer people in a collaborative process which allowed other narratives and experiences to influence my work. This collaborative process became an integral part of my work, with me often appearing in the photograph with my subjects, playing and exploring together through the images we create. 

My photographs do not seek to offer complete and concrete narratives of identity, rather, they present uncertain and fragmented narratives that exist in a space between reality and fantasy, reflecting the transitional space(s) in which queerness exists. When I take photographs, the process is spontaneous, playful, and collaborative. This process—which is reminiscent of the practice of free-association—echoes the fluidity and dynamism of non-normative queer identities.

Jesse Egner is a queer artist based in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BA from Millersville University and his MFA from Parsons School of Design. His work has been exhibited and published globally and is included in the permanent collection at the Kiyosato Museum. He is a 2022 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Photography and has recently participated in residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Bunnell Street Arts Center, Studio Vortex, and Yaddo.