Jonathan Higbee

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Forbidden City

A photography project shot in locations hostile to gay men with the help of Google Street View. 
All images by Jonathan Higbee with Google Street View.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates 

With the help of Google Street View I can finally produce photographic work in countries I've dreamed of photographing since I was young. It's not the expense of travel that has kept me outside their borders; instead, I've had to avoid these beautiful countries because visiting them in person puts me at risk of imprisonment -- or worse -- for the "crime" of being gay. "Forbidden City" reflects the work I'd produce if I had been born straight and able to travel freely, but with a pervasive sense of disconnection.

Observing neighborhoods through the lens of the Google Street View camera detaches me from the communities I pass through. The other human beings existing in these spaces and I are forced to remain separate, all of them over there and over here, me. I'm prohibited from inhabiting the spaces found in this work as the person I truly am.

I’m disembodied when I visit and pass through these foreign towns, unable to interact in any meaningful way with members of these communities, condemned to appear to them as nothing more than an avatar of myself, a manufactured, government-regulated creation who's truth must remain imprisoned within its skin.

Locations featured in this excerpt include:

Russian Federation: Being gay is a crime that carries punishments varying from fines to concentration camps (gay men only), depending on the federal subject.

Egypt, Tunisia & GhanaBeing gay is punishable by up to 3 years in prison, and is predominantly enforced against men, not women. In Tunisia, two men were recently sent to jail for "looking gay."

United Arab Emirates: Being gay is on the books as punishable by death (gay men only; analysts unsure whether the law also applies to lesbians). "Lighter" sentences of 10 years in prison are most likely. 

Giza, Egypt        ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Gabes, Tunisia       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Krasnodar, Russian Federation       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Larabanga, Ghana       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Krasnodar, Russian Federation       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Giza, Egypt       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Sir Baniyas, United Arab Emirates       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Larabanga, Ghana       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Krasnodar, Russian Federation       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Medenine, Tunisia         ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Larabanga, Ghana       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Giza, Egypt       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

Gabes, Tunisia       ©Jonathan Higbee via Google Street View

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