USA

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(1980, Lima, PE) Natalia Neuhaus is a queer photographer who started her career in Lima, Peru. In 2007, she moved to the U.S. to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. Her gaze is deeply influenced by the violence that surrounded her childhood. Observing and understanding others became a form of survival that shaped how she photographs, whether it be photographing baby boomers aging alone in NYC, or the city’s stillness during the Covid shutdown, which received an honorable mention at The Julia Margaret Cameron Award in 2021. In 2017, she was one of the recipients of the Director’s scholarship at ICP, allowing her to attend the full-time documentary program. Since 2019, she’s been photographing the lives of burlesque performers in NYC. This project started as documentary work and transformed into a visual diary of those who became friends and the artists who live within this orbit. It is a community that has always defied gender norms and continues to push the boundaries against a world that persists in defining morality and societal behaviors. In 2022, Neuhaus was one of three women accepted into the Leica x VII Mentor Program. Natalia lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her wife and two dogs. 

“Burlesque NYC: A Celebration of Love and Diversity” 

Natalia Neuhaus shares, “This is the story of my community and family. Since October 2019, I’ve been photographing the lives of some burlesque performers in NYC, creating abody of work that started as a documentary project and transformed into a collection of moments of those who became friends.  

“The first time I saw a burlesque show was in August 2019, and it was love at first sight. I fell in love with this art form, its message of empowerment, and its celebration of diversity. Within this community, the majority are LGBTQ and non-binary folks, with straight individuals being the minority, diverging from the usual norm. Burlesque welcomes and accepts everyone, supports and loves all, and acts as the counterculture and voice of protest of current and past times. Whether on stage or the street, burlesque has always been political and a safe haven for the LGBTQ community and its allies. 

“This community, my community, is unstoppable. Even at the height of 2020, during the city’s darkest moments, it knew how to find a sense of joy and togetherness.” 

Despite conservative trends and the hateful discourse towards diversity, it's not only okay, but essential to embrace and celebrate what makes us different.”

Interview

What was your inspiration, process, and research?

My inspiration for this project comes from those who inhabit this community. They give me hope that the words “acceptance” and “diversity” are not just ideals but tangible realities. The research for this project was purely experiential; burlesque is about its artists and performers, their friendships, and solidarity. I’ve never experienced a more supportive community than the burlesque community in NYC, community that’s always been politically active and refuses to be silenced

What do you hope to achieve with this project?

I hope that viewers understand the importance of documenting the lives of these artists who dare to be themselves because they are the voice of protest in these troubled times. They remind us that despite conservative trends and the hateful discourse towards diversity, it’s not only okay, but essential to embrace and celebrate what makes us different.  

Were you able to apply what you learned at VII Academy/Foundry Photojournalism Workshop to this project, and if so, how?

Through The VII Foundation, its mentorship program, and PhotoWings, I’ve learned about the importance of perseverance. Whether it’s from mentors or peers, this career is more than just a job— it’s a calling, and most of the time, it’s a solitary endeavor. The VII Foundation, PhotoWings, and all those involved in these tuition-free programs are creating a much-needed support network where visual storytellers from all over the world come together through a medium that connects all: photography.