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Chosen Family Business

My name is Ali. I am 27 years old, born and raised in Italy, and I am a queer, a photographer and archivist.

I identify as non-binary, and my pronouns are they/them.

As a photographer, I have the responsibility to critically question representation. To represent is not merely

taking a photograph: it is creating meaning, identity, a sense of belonging, and most importantly, a visual

language in which people can feel recognized.

While growing into and with my queerness I became aware of how crucial representation is and how important

it is to find relatable images and stories around you.

Chosen Family Business became a photographic collection of portraits of my friends, who are also representatives

of the queer community in Rotterdam. During the months of April and May, twenty-two individuals

opened their homes to me and allowed me to portray them in their bedrooms — an intimate space where they

could feel at ease. As a part of my practice-led research I asked my peers to answer questions about queerness,

gender identity and the urgency of representation.

As the intent of the project is writing history and give queer representation to younger generations, I had

to research in the field what I was actually looking for: I had to find out if my experience was common or

similar to other queer folks.

What I found in the words of my peers was a shared experience of lack of representation, alienation and

feelings of unbelonging.

In a conversation with Sarafina, a Rotterdam-based artist, poet and performer, they expressed how they felt

alone in their gender expression and identity and how that was a push for them to go out and look for people

similar to them, and to discover places where they could find role models.

I had the same need as Sarafina and the Chosen Family Business archive was born from the urge to feel

a sense of belonging somewhere, and the need to have my identity affirmed and reflected in the bodies of


“There are so many factors of representation that I tried to look for, because I felt so alone. It was the curiosity of me wanting to look for people like me.”

My archive has a hybrid form, part digital and part physical. The digital archive can be accessed and will

grow in time: I have collected existing images and symbols and stored them on a shared platform as a

source of knowledge for my community.

The physical form is an exhibition curated by my friend and collaborator Jasmijn van der Linden, with the

intention of creating a space for us to celebrate our own history. This exhibition will be repeated as the archive

grows and evolves.

In the making of the archive we collaborated with our friends and members of the queer community around

us to write our own history. Here is where my role as a photographer came into play.

We were invited to our friend’s homes, a space where they felt safe and comfortable to be photographed. The

choice of the home settings is to validate queer lives that happen behind closed doors. Each

session was a moment of joy and celebration of our existence. I had the honor and pleasure to take each portrait,

and together we wrote a piece of our queer history.

As this archive was being built, I saw how this process was a cumulation of sharing experiences and emotions,

learning about each other’s lives and backgrounds, and especially of profound understanding and

compassion towards one another.

Since I have started Chosen Family Business, I gained the confidence to question my gender. In meeting individuals

who perform gender differently, and in understanding that identity is fluid and autonomous, I have

been able to come to terms with my own identity.

My practice and understanding of the importance of archiving has led me into a deeper search for meaning

and validation in and outside of my photography.

Project details

Cultural Diversity