Antonia Decker and Her Coming Out Exhibit

Seattle U student hosts an enchanting night at the Cheese-tro.


“In what way(s) have you come out this year?”  There are certain activities, values, and hobbies we embrace that we do not show to the world. Antonia Decker, a sophomore at SU, wanted to shine a light on these attributes in her exhibit Coming Out,  specifically shining a light on leaving comfort to truly express who you are. It started with a photo essay of students at Seattle U. Antonia captured four pictures of each subject involving their dorm room. The first was of their door, the next was of them casually in their room, after that was their “preparation” for what they would come out about, and finally they would “come out” of their dorm room ready to express their identity. She would then post these pictures on her online blog.

I talked with Antonia before her event and she said how she wanted to show “different ways students come out; coming out refers to brave individuals kind of letting themselves show their true identity publicly.” Students expressed themselves as musicians, poets, badasses or even just discussed about how they have changed into who they are today. As her blog progressed, Antonia had the desire to start a public dialogue by turning her photo essays into a physical exhibit.

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Photo by Antonia Decker

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Photo by Antonia Decker

      

Antonia utilized the community that was already at the Bistro and decided to hold her exhibit there to “honor the students and Seattle U as well for providing a space where students can cultivate their own identity.” The opening event of the exhibit included performances of spoken word poetry, martial arts performances, and live music by the SU band Champagne Babylon. The event brought a warm atmosphere through the greasy, cheesy air of the Bistro. As people mingled and enjoyed the company of others the location unwound into one of those environments that made you feel weirdly warm and fuzzy by the end of the night. And don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. Antonia’s inviting smile and genial manner allowed everyone to be comfortable as she introduced the performers as well as guided the viewers through the experience.

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Photo by Antonia Decker

After Champagne Babylon finished playing and the event simmered down, Antonia hoped we left with more than a smile. Through the exhibit and photo essays Antonia wanted to “show the bravery it takes for someone to act on their own initiative.” Showing one’s full identity can leave a person vulnerable. Antonia stated, “I hope that those images and stories inspire the viewer to really just discover their emerging identities and really feel brave enough to come out publicly as who they truly are.”

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Photo by Phil Decker

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Photo by Phil Decker

Antonia’s idea was inspired by Lebanese photographer Rania Matar’s photo essay “A Girl In Her Room.” Rania photographed teenage girls in their rooms surrounded by their posters, decorations, and personal items. Antonia pointed out that “all those little signs end up being extensions of the person that live there. So I thought about that a lot when photographing the dorm. For someone who is coming out as a poet or a performer there are going to be clues  to that in their decorations, and how they have created their living space.” Antonia spent around 2 hours photographing her subjects in their rooms, usually silently, as they acted just as they would if nobody else was in there. “I definitely didn’t want forced smiles or anything, I just wanted to make the images very very natural.”

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Photo by Phil Decker

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Photo by Joe Manuel

Every student in Antonia Decker’s photo essays seemed to own a natively beautiful story as she “used the dorm as a metaphor, a kind of closet or shell [they were] coming out of because in [their] dorm thats [their] most honest space. That’s [their] space.” The event at the Bistro continued that metaphor as these students performed their talents and released their full identities. “I was really just blown away by all the different ways young people like me are discovering themselves, exploring, trying new things, finding what fits, and what doesn’t. I think one of those beautiful things was just how open people were. I photographed a total of 14 students and we had two hour photo shoots in their dorm; for them to be able to let me into their dorm and space, all guards down, and really just show me who they are was impressive. While we like to think that we are on our own journey, and we’re all alone on it, and we’re trying to figure this out on our own, if you just look around you, everyone is going through that same thing. Obviously through different paths, and their own experiences to draw from, but it was beautiful to see that we’re all in this….together!”

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Antonia enjoys meditation, yoga, and experiencing the out doors on her free time.

View Antonia Decker’s photo series here: http://comingoutseries.blogspot.com/


Joe Manuel / Desire / KXSU DJ & Promotions Coordinator

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