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Photographer Caleb Griffin Reflects on the ‘Visceral Experience Queer Bodies Have With Religious Objects’ cover

Photographer Caleb Griffin Reflects on the ‘Visceral Experience Queer Bodies Have With Religious Objects’

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post ran in 2022. We’re publishing this update in honor of our February 2024 exhibition, PINK!, which includes work from Caleb Griffin.

“I want to focus on finding my place as a gay Black man in the religious world that I was birthed into,” declares Los Angeles-based photographer and creative designer Caleb Griffin.

The artist’s recent Holy Gestures series does just that. Replete with plush purples and an extraordinary satin church hat, the photographic series sifts through Caleb’s upbringing in the heart of the Bible Belt: Montgomery, Alabama. “Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence,” he writes in his artist statement. “Understanding my own emerging queer sexuality within this paradigm was extremely complicated.”

Caleb Griffin makes peace with his Bible Belt upbringing in ‘Holy Gestures,’ a photographic series influenced by religion, identity, and sexuality.
‘Pastor James E. Griffin’

As a pastor’s son, Baptist doctrine dictated the now 24-year-old Caleb’s youth—even the media he consumed was regulated according to church guidelines. As such, the young artist struggled to find a comfortable place within the rigid confines of his religious community. Holy Gestures works to define which aspects of Caleb’s identity were built upon these social expectations, allowing the artist to choose which parts of his upbringing he’ll carry into adulthood.

In Holy Gestures, Caleb dons his father’s opulent pastoral robe—a silken purple garment signifying legacy, heritage, and spirituality. His mother’s fabulous Sunday hat, topped with a pink satin bow, also makes an appearance. Not only does Caleb wear these items, testing their fit, he also “want[s] to reflect on the visceral experience queer bodies have with religious objects.”

The colors and patterns in Holy Gestures drown Caleb in elaborate detail—he often turns away from the direct gaze of the camera’s eye. Using careful compositions and thoughtful details, the artist navigates a thorny path between self-discovery and a deep-seated love for his family.

Scroll through to see Caleb’s work, then head to our February 2024 exhibition, PINK!, to see his submission, “Gbenga.”

“Being the son of a Baptist pastor, religion completely framed my existence.” — Caleb Griffin

‘Shedding’
Caleb Griffin makes peace with his Bible Belt upbringing in ‘Holy Gestures,’ a photographic series influenced by religion, identity, and sexuality.
‘Shedding’
‘Shedding’
‘Shedding’
‘Pastor’s Son’
‘My Precious’
‘Pomp and Circumstance’
‘Angel of Mine’
‘Inheritance’
‘Gabriel’

Caleb Griffin: Website | Instagram

All photos published with permission of the artist.

Want to be featured in Lightbox? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Jenna Eberhardt

Jenna Eberhardt (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s associate editor. Jenna is a writer and working artist from Asheville, NC, who specializes in watercolor botanicals and dreamy moonscapes. A true night owl, Jenna enjoys a minimum of two cups of coffee per day and isn’t afraid of the dark when she’s up late painting. As a registered yoga instructor with a background in health and wellness, Jenna believes in the brain-boosting power of a regular mindfulness practice, regarding rest and relaxation as a necessary part of the creative process.

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