In Place explores my experiences of growing up gay in Utah, at the geographical, social, and cultural epicenter of the LDS faith.
My work is concerned with the experience of living in Salt Lake City as a gay ex-Mormon. Coming out as queer after living as a member of the Mormon faith and serving a two-year mission for the organization was a wake-up call for myself, my family, and my friends. I began my studies in art around the same time I came out and it has been a primary facet of my work. Utah’s desolate geography serves as a metaphor for my experiences. The physical emptiness and desolation of the red rock deserts and expansive salt flats are symbols of the emotional and mental isolation of queer people in Utah’s cultural landscape. Through the use of the camera, my body, the land, and the photo studio, I capture the relationship of my identity to my surroundings. I rearrange my world to make sense of it and re-capture it again and again. My fragmented figure in my photos becomes a visual reminder of the difficulty in being verbally dissected by the people around me. Internally, I carry the weight of otherness. I feel a physical burden pulling my body down, down, down to dust. I see fulfillment in a future outside of Utah and cling to it with every stroke of energy I can muster. The camera is my guardian angel and tool for self-creation, carrying me from day to day until I find that future.
Nate Francis is a photographic and sculptural artist who works with issues of identity and isolation. He often appears in his own work by documenting his body or performing for the camera. Nate grew up in Provo, Utah in an LDS family of nine children. His work explores the consequences of his upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a gay youth, the challenge of creating a home after coming out, as well as the hope of finding a new and more suitable environment in the future.