Bradley Secker is a photojournalist and National Geographic Explorer based in Istanbul, Turkey. His work focuses on themes of identity and migration—covering stories about how identity shapes lives in challenging and unexpected ways, particularly within sexual and ethnic minority groups. Bradley’s current project, called “Gayropa,” documents LGBTQ+ people that have migrated to various European countries due to their sexuality and/or gender identity.
In honor of Pride Month, we talked to Bradley about his work, what he thinks people can learn from the stories he documents, and how he’s celebrating Pride Month.
Tell us about your current project with NGS and why you are passionate about it.
My current project is called “Gayropa.” It’s a visual documentation of LGBTIQ people that have migrated to various European countries due to their sexuality and/or gender identity. They are claiming asylum or have received asylum and are beginning to rebuild their lives across Europe. I’m particularly passionate about this project as the topic of LGBTIQ migration has been something I’ve covered heavily and predominantly in my personal work from 2010, in Syria. It has led me to this new chapter of the work (which is essentially a natural progression of the stories being covered) across Europe, with the generous support of the National Geographic Society.
What do you want people to learn about the LGBTQ+ communities you work with through your photography and the stories you share?
The main goal of the project is to highlight and educate the wider public and LGBTIQ communities around the world about the issue of queer migration. Within our own LGBTIQ communities, there is racism and xenophobia, as well as other issues that need to be given thought.
The rhetoric surrounding migration, asylum, and LGBT rights in Europe and elsewhere is often very polarizing, so I hope my images of people from all over the world, making a new start, will help to personalize the statistics and show some more nuances in a visually engaging way.
What does Pride Month mean to you? How are you finding ways to celebrate this year?
Pride and Pride Month mean a lot to me, as a gay man, as a photojournalist, and as someone living in Turkey. The rights of sexual minorities has, and will always be, a staple of my personal work as a photographer. Living in a country that is taking severe steps backwards over recent years regarding LGBTIQ rights, I think this work is as important as ever. This year, amongst the new rules and regulations COVID-19 has brought, I will be sharing more images on the GAYROPA social media channels, and hope to launch the website dedicated to the project soon at gayropa.eu. As with most of the Pride Month events, events are online in the hope of creating visibility despite the restrictions for our health.
Are there ways in which the photography community can be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community?
The wider photography and photojournalism communities are becoming increasingly inclusive and realizing the need for a diverse workforce and subject matter, in order to better tell a wider range of stories accurately and sensitively. Personally, I’d like to see more opportunities aimed at supporting LGBTIQ photographers, not necessarily for covering LGBTIQ stories (a lot of us struggle with feeling pigeonholed in this regard), but in general, as there is an increasing level of support for other minorities, and underrepresented groups, like women.
Visually, a lot of the LGBTIQ coverage by photographers in general looks at the more visible forms of our community: Pride marches, drag shows, and gay club culture. There’s a lot of normal, everyday life that’s missing here, so I’d like to see more nuanced coverage of LGBTIQ people that isn’t so sensational, outlandish, or shocking.
Learn more about Bradley Secker, his work documenting LGBTQ+ migrants, and what he’s doing to raise awareness and funding to support refugees.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.