Philly Couple Displays ‘Strong’ Feeling Towards Lesbian Community

If you’ve been anywhere on social media, chances are you’ve seen The STRONG Philly—a new initiative by Philly-based photographer, Amanda Swiger and her wife, Jordan Swiger.

The STRONG Philly was created in most part due to some frustration The Swigers were feeling with the lesbian community both in Philly and beyond.

“In all honesty, we didn’t feel like we belonged anywhere,” Amanda said. “We had been torn down a lot by the communities that already existed and we had been really hurt by some of the things that had been said to us or about us.”

Instead, the two embarked on a journey to create a community that represented the strong, supportive lesbian system they knew existed.

“There is already so much that seeks to tear down women in general and then we are often marginalized again as women who like women,” Jordan said. “So to see our community furthering that? We knew we wanted to do something to change it.”

The two hosted their first photo shoot on February 20 and a month later, found themselves with over 40 women who wanted to be a part of The STRONG.

So what’s a gal got to do to get involved and be apart of The STRONG?

“We aren’t looking for models. We are looking for lesbian-identified women who want to be a part of what we are doing!  There are no other criteria beyond that,” Jordan said. “We ask each woman who comes to a shoot to wear something they feel strong, sexy, and empowered in and it has been really fun to see how each person interprets that.”

With the LGBT community being more accepting towards the term “queer”, the two still felt a strong connection to the lesbian identification and felt there needed to be more lesbian representation in the community.

“It seemed that everything was moving to be under the umbrella of Queer, a powerful word in its own right, but what about the women who just identified as lesbian?” Jordan said. “It seemed to be harder and harder to find anything that went only by that title and a simple search of #lesbian on Instagram showed that a lot of what was out there was a straight man’s pornographic idea of what a lesbian was.”

So Jordan and Amanda set their sights on creating a space where a diverse group of lesbian-identified women could meet, mingle and make new friends.

“We believe that in a day and age where exclusivity is something so many seek to have, it’s also good to have things for specific groups of people as well,” Amanda said. “Sure you could go out on a Saturday night to a lesbian/queer party, but are you going to be making new friends?  Probably not! And that’s ok for those situations, but shouldn’t there also be places where lesbians can go to find other lesbians?”

Amanda noted that not everyone who is a part of The STRONG identifies solely as a lesbian.

“We have women who go by other things as well.  The main thing is that this is a community for women who like women and if that’s you, we want you to be apart!”

The couple opted for The STRONG to be more of a community than project, saying that they hope the message continues even if the images do not.

“I believe that the images are important because it gives a voice and a platform to different faces and stories.  At least half of the women who have come to shoots are individuals we didn’t know beforehand. Maybe we had seen them out before, didn’t know their name or anything about them,” Jordan said. “Our hope is to photograph as many women as possible, ask them to answer a brief survey and then to post images with quotes from those surveys to connect faces to names to a little about who they are.”

As a photographer, Amanda finds black and white photos to be the most striking.

“There is something about a black and white image that stripes everything down to its emotion,” she said.

On March 12, the two embarked on one of their biggest shoots for The STRONG—something Amanda said was the “heartbeat” of what they hoped to accomplish.

“There have been many LGBT photo series, but you rarely see the person photographing the series in front of what they are doing.  Over my life, a lot of really awful things have been said to me and about me and I know that so many of us have too,” Amanda said. “For me, it was things like I was untalented, a kid, ugly, fat, unwanted, a copycat, a groupie, a victim, crazy…to say a few.  And those things get in your head and your heart and you start to believe them.  I believed for so long that because of those things, I wasn’t strong, I wasn’t needed.”

Amanda credits her wife, Jordan, for breaking those thoughts and photographed by Jonathan Hernandez, Amanda took the next step in conquering those words.

“Jordan became a mirror that allowed me to see myself as someone else saw me and showed me the strength that was in me all along,” she said. “So I took those words and asked some of the most amazing women I know to paint them on my skin and then stand beside me, showing this cruel world that we are more than the sum of the negative things we are told.”

The STRONG Philly will host its next photo shoot on April 2 (time and place TBD); however, give them a follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thestrongphilly or follow them on Instagram @thestrongphilly.  If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out via their Facebook page to learn more.

2 Comments

  1. Beth little says:

    We had same feelings in Cleveland – losing spaces for just lesbians, so I started WOFFs last year. We now have 180 members. http://Www.meetup.com/neo-WOFFs. Thanks
    for stating it so eloquently.

    Reply
  2. Beth Little says:

    The website has an underscore, not a hyphen – http://www.meetup.com/NEO_WOFFS/

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Powered by WordPress | Warrington Web Design & SEO by The Creative Cachet