Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography

On the fourth Episode of Up in Smoke, Marjani Viola Hawkins was on her 47th model out of the 50 total to be shot for her first photography book, “Queer Girls.”

Queer Girls is a film photography book that Marjani has been putting all of her time and energy into in hopes of creating a more inclusive LGBTQ environment in Arizona.

“There needs to be a safe space for queer women and also queer women of color,” Marjani said.

The book focuses on any woman who does not identify as straight and gives the models involved the option to be photographed fully clothed, in their underwear, or semi-nude (Check out some of the photos here).

Marjani sat down with Raina and I and talked to us more about the creation of the book, her own experience as being a queer woman of color, and how to obtain pro-feminist socks.

Listen to Ep. 4 of Up in Smoke featuring Marjani here.

up in smoke

She also spoke with us about the reactions she has received when bringing up the book in an ultra-conservative Arizona environment (shocking but it’s actually been mostly positive thus far) and some of the current challenges she has faced within Arizona’s LGBTQ ecosystem.

“There’s not really a strong, safe space place for women within the LGBTQ community, it’s very centered on the male experience and the male voice. I wanted to create something that is just for women and centered on women.”

The casting process for the women was completely open and Marjani asked anyone interested to reach out. She has since faced some backlash for the amount of white women featured in the book, but said that that was just a result of making it as inclusive as possible and that the women featured in the book were the only women who reached out to her.

Up in smoke

She also spoke briefly about one of the book’s sponsors, One*n*Ten, (One*n*Ten is a national LGBTQ nonprofit focused on empowering youth in various cities, Phoenix being one of them), and the workshop she will be doing with them over the summer.

(Listen to Episode 4 here)

We also went back in time for 2.7 minutes and Marjani talked about starting out her photographing career in high school (all in Arizona) and using her friends as models. (Fun Fact: Raina was the first girl photographed by Marjani for a webtorial in Circus Magazine and Raina is also in the Queer Girls book so GET HYPED.)

Flash forward to now and we have the hidden hero giving advice to other photographers looking to start a community-centered project in Arizona:

“You have to be extremely focused, nothing that I have ever done has just been by chance,” Marjani said.

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She also spoke about her goal of doing ten things everyday to move her career forward and some other solid creative women career advice…..but you should stop reading all of this advice and instead listen to Episode 4 here.

OR FIND OUT WHERE TO GET FEMINIST SOCKS HERE! (hehehe this is how I am tricking you once again to listen to the podcast).

And be sure to check out the Queers Girls book website here and Marjani’s amazing photography on her Instagram here.

–Jamee

Arizona’s hidden hero behind “Queer Girls”: Creating a more inclusive desert through photography

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