Having grown up in a patriarchal and traditional village in the south of France, I had to follow certain codes and rules in order to become “a man.” I couldn’t embrace my identity freely…hiding and performing myself most of the time. Closeted, alone and living a secret life for many years, I was scared to be judged by my sexuality.

Chameleon is a photographic series about hiding and revealing. This duality becomes a metaphor of the little lizard that hides itself in plain sight. It is a narrative exploring masculinities and spaces beside the heteronormative structure. The still frame evokes the love, hope and fear of people who exist outside these constructs that can be suffocating. I create my images through evocations of the personal and collective experiences of my community. By using masks, fabrics, accessories and composing with colours, shapes, shadows; I question the performative / camouflage aspects of our lives. My images are staged to create visual metaphors and specific statements which form part of global visual and political activism. I am equally engaged in celebrating as well as illustrating the diversity of masculinities.

This camouflage ability is an expression of how I seek to open up dialogue about those of us who live but do not fit the conventional moulds constructed by heteronormativity. The series is confronting our societies in a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under attack in many different places in the world. My work aims to encourage queer people to show themselves and be proud of who they are.

— Ugo Woatzi

We discovered this work through the open call process at PhEST photo festival in Monopoli, Italy. Be sure to check out the whole festival.