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Exhibit shines a rainbow on Elk Valley 2SLGBTQ+ community

‘I AM HERE’ is a portrait exhibit of the local queer community
CJ Louray is the artist behind the lens for the I AM HERE exhibit. (Image contributed)

The Fernie Arts Station is hosting a little slice of rainbow art for the next few weeks, with the portrait exhibit ‘I AM HERE’ on show from September 8 to 26.

Made up of portraits of 2SLGBTQ+ members of the community, the exhibit is indended to raise the visibility of the queer community in the Elk Valley.

The photographer behind the lens, CJ Louray, said that the project was personal for her.

“I didn’t see representation in Fernie growing up,” she said.

“I didn’t see me, and when I did, when I saw myself in images or on TV, it usually came with stigma or taboo attached to it. It caused me to put myself in a very thick shell for a very long time, and I suffered immensely as a result, and nobody should have to go through that.

“I wanted to put some beacons out there for the youth that are in this town that is still not treating intentionally minoritised people correctly – They aren’t alone in their suffering, there’s people that have been in it for a long time that they can turn to for help.”

Louray was born and raised in Fernie, and left town at 19 after a traumatic childhood of hiding who she was to survive. In returning to Fernie in the last 10 years, she said she wanted to help those who have come after.

A recent photographer, Louray said she had picked up a camera for her mental health, and discovered she loved it, leading to this project.

“I had an opportunity to do this project and I figured let’s throw some seeds into the ground. The garden needs more visibility.”

The people who came forward for the project are all locals that are part of the queer community, and Louray said she was honored they’d come forward.

“For the number of people that we got, and the diversity in the people that we got – I’m happy. I couldn’t have been more honored to work with the models who put themselves out there and trusted me with their image.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m grateful for the people that stepped forward, that they decided to join me on this.”

The exhibit, ‘I AM HERE’, is on display at the Fernie Arts Station from September 8 to 26.

Louray said she hoped the project stood out and those who were questioning, or didn’t fall into set categories in society felt included.

“You’re still valid, you still belong. Your life is still infinitely worthy, and your heart is absolutely worthy of love.”

Note: ‘I AM HERE’ is supported in part by the Fernie Pride Society, of which the author of this article is a board member who also took part in the project.

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