Since 2017, Quil Lemons has broken molds for himself and Black photographers alike. The multidisciplinary artist has captured dozens of notable artists for album covers, magazine covers, billboards, and editorial campaigns. Lemons’ work has been featured in prestigious publications like Allure, Black Fashion Fair, The Fader, Garage, GQ, i-D, Shadowplay, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Variety, W, and numerous others.
Furthermore, Lemons has already photographed notable figures such as REMA, Ian Isiah, Spike Lee, Billie Eilish, Telfar Clemens, Evan Mock, Lorde, Ravyn Lenae, Alek Wek, and Naomi Campbell. His extensive clientele encompasses renowned fashion brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Guess, Moncler, Nike, Nordstrom, SSense, and Valentino, among others.
Now that Lemons has received his well-deserved flowers amongst the mainstream, he wants to take these moments and experiences to a more personal level than he ever has. His photography exhibition, Quiladelphia, was skillfully captured using a range of film cameras, immersing viewers in an intimate and liberating experience with each photograph. Consider this gallery as a prelude to a new phase in Lemons’ life and career. Whether you’ve been a long-time follower of Lemons or are just discovering his work, Quiladelphia will provide valuable insight into his past, present, and future.
Lemons describes Quiladelphia, his first upcoming solo show as “a manifesto of radical queerness.”
The exhibition contributes to making the human experience, particularly for Black queer individuals, feel less marginalized and more integrated into the broader spectrum of humanity. Lemons’ believes Black people continue to fight the same fight and need to unite for that reason. “I feel as Black people, I think that we’ve historically been overlooked and then pushed into weird spaces where we always have to fight just to exist, to be seen, and to have rights,” Lemons told ESSENCE. “I think as a Black queer person, it just gets doubled down. I feel like a lot of times, I don’t feel support from our own community when it comes to showing up for Black queer people. We have to keep educating our own community about what it means to be queer and how that really means I’m just living my life…It’s just asking and demanding respect, being seen, and having value for it.”
While Quiladelphia serves as an introspective reflection of his own journey, it also shines a light on the resilience of others. Whether it’s a close friend or a family member of Lemons, their battles and strength are eloquently depicted through the diverse array of photographs in the gallery. Despite being deeply rooted in Lemons’ personal experiences, as well as those of his friends and family, Quiladelphia isn’t explicitly political. Instead, he aims for his art to serve as a platform for society and the world to engage with and derive personal expressions from, transcending the often politicized nature of Black narratives.
At it’s core, Quiladelphia is about collaboration. His community holds great significance for Lemons, as he acknowledges that his creative endeavors wouldn’t even be possible without the contributions of models, makeup and hair artists, and producers. He firmly believes that without the collective effort of his collaborators, there would be no foundation for meaningful dialogue in his work. “It’s an entire community,” Lemons says. “This work is reflective of collaboration more than anything else. It was my community that really helped me make these images at the same time as unpacking everything. It’s really organic.”
Rather than inundating himself with numerous assigned or commissioned projects, Lemons chose to utilize the free time that the pandemic afforded him to delve deep into his personal and creative contemplations. These moments of introspection ultimately led him to conceptualize the vision for his inaugural book or exhibition. His creative journey bore a resemblance to journaling, as he embarked on a series of travels from New York to Los Angeles, Paris, and London in the post-pandemic period, immersing himself in diverse fashion and art communities. “What that means for a young, Black queer kid from Philly: to now have access into all of these hubs of art, commerce, and just being in the room,” he said of his experiences. “Stepping away from those rooms and saying, ‘What does this mean to me?’ and ‘What do I have to say in this moment?’”