New York-based photographer and educator Naima Green is a historian of sorts. Her work documents the lives of afro-queer communities in a way that carefully centers the unique experiences of each person who steps in front of her lens.
For her latest project, the award-winning artist, who identifies as queer, partnered with Facebook to capture the “My Chosen Family” portrait series. The collection celebrates the community LGBTQ+ individuals find among one another, allowing many to live openly and freely.
“Chosen family is critical in queer and Black communities,” she tells ESSENCE. “And having people around you who can support you with no questions is important. There is a level of understanding that you build with chosen family.”
For Green, finding her own community or “chosen family” has provided not only a safe haven but also a creative springboard inspiring some of her most significant work.
The upstate New York native’s art has been exhibited in some of the most reputable museums across the country, including Fotografiska New York and the Smart Museum of New York. She’s even focused her lens on notable figures like Solange Knowles and Amanda Gorman.
Even though she’s already accomplished so much, for Green, “My Chosen Family” is a project close to her heart and of great importance as 39% of LGBTQ+ adults have reported being rejected from their biological families. Many have found Facebook groups to be a safe space to connect with others. So when the social media company launched its Metaverse Culture Series for Pride month and reached out to Greene, teaming up for the project made sense because their goal for it aligned with the work she was already doing.
“I always have to do work on collaborations that align with my values,” she says. “Facebook had their own ideas, but they gave me a lot of creative control in the process.”
The portrait series features an eclectic mix of chosen families representing the intersectionality of the LGBTQ+ community related to race, gender identity, and artistic expression. The groups include popular drag family The House of LaBeija, and Facebook communities SQuAT (Subtle Queer Asian Traits), Queer Mental Health, NYC Queer Activists, and Ballroom #Clips #Dips #Tea.
Green’s mission, both with “My Chosen Family” and all of her work, is to chronicle the lives of those whose stories may otherwise be completely overlooked. So she hopes this project inspires curiosity and connection while challenging people to expand their perception of queer communities.
“I hope that folks are able to recognize the humanity in these groups; and instead of seeing a queer person or a Black person, or an Asian person, they see a person who deserves to be nourished, cared for, and have leisure.”
Green, who proudly states that she is a “queer, professional, Black woman,” hopes that the work also creates more allyship among Black women.
“There seems to be a bit of a generational divide in the Black community when it comes to conversations around queerness,” she says. “I would love to see all Black women become allies to other queer women, and I would love for Black women to celebrate their own queerness.”
Green acknowledges that there has been a dynamic shift in the right direction; still, there’s a long road ahead. But she’s poised for the journey, as she plans to continue documenting the lives of afro-queer communities and their chosen families—affirming their place in the present while reimagining the potential of their futures.