Photographer Feature: Joan Lobis Brown

Editor Shenyah Webb, Photography, January 17th, 2019

"New Alternatives: LGBTQ Homeless Youth"


From the photographer:

LGBTQ youth are often shunned by their biological and/or foster families. Feeling alienated and even physically threatened, they run away to large cities to search for people like themselves. They survive on the streets by their own wits and form communities, some with defined roles. These communities exist in parallel universes that often remain hidden and forbidden to most of the public. Many people are unwilling or even afraid to look at these youth because they appear strange or different from the expected norms.

In 2014, I photographed a group of LGBTQ at-risk youth in NYC, many whom are houseless. To take these, I set up a studio in the sanctuary of a church, where these youth are given meals and taught skills. The project is called NEW ALTERNATIVES, named after the organization that helps these youth and where I volunteered in order to get to know them.

Many of these youth were extraordinarily comfortable in front of the camera and wanted to show the world who they are as individuals. They were also interested in introducing me to their chosen family – their “gay mother” or “gay brother” or their significant other – families they created for themselves to care for, love and cherish.

Each youth was able to choose and keep prints of him or herself. Courageous, defiant, self-confident, beautiful—these are some of the words I would use to describe the youth in these photographs. I hope that along with appreciating the uniqueness of each person photographed, viewers can find something they can relate to and identify with – a gesture, a posture or even an emotion revealed.

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Joan Lobis Brown is a portrait and landscape photographer who has been widely shown in group and solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. Since 2013, she has been selected for eighty-five international juried competitions. Her work has been published in several online and print magazines. Her portrait projects highlight segments of our society that have been subjected to intense stigma. Her landscape projects include subjects as diverse as global warming and creating a photographic world where reality is overtaken with imagination. Brown studied photography in the Advanced Studies Program at The International Center of Photography. She lives and works in New York City. She has three solo exhibitions scheduled for 2019. More of her photography can be viewed here. (


Shenyah Webb

Shenyah Webb is a Portland-based visual artist and musician. She has been with NAILED Magazine since its inception in 2012 and has served as the Arts Editor and a Contributing Editor since its launch in 2013. A Detroit native, she attended The College for Creative Studies, where she focused on Fine Art and Industrial Design. She is currently enrolled in a Somatic Expressive Arts Education and Therapy training program, studying under Lanie Bergin. You can learn more about Shenyah here. (