To celebrate Pride this month, we’re sharing the stories of young creatives showing their pride and proving that love is love. We’ve partnered with GLSEN to introduce an exclusive collection of graphic tees and hats, as well as Fujifilm to curate a Instax Mini Group Show with all profits donated to GLSEN in support of LGBTQ youth. Here we chat with Oriana Koren– editorial photographer and writer based in LA.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I grew up in South Florida, both a First generation Haitian-American and African-American with generational roots in the Mississippi delta. Writing and photography helped me to navigate the territory of being queer, black, West Indian. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I had the freedom to creatively explore and dissect all of my identities. These days, I’m still queer, a writer, a photographer, a survivor of childhood abuse. I like to describe myself as an Alpha Female Cyborg; it’s my life’s aspiration to be powerful, genderless, and without limitation.
What does love mean to you?
Love means being supported. For a very long time, I thought love was being self sacrificing to the point of bending myself into shapes that didn’t fit me and accepting the scraps of someone else. Now, I think the best way to show love is to cultivate support, to be a soft place for someone to fall, to encourage their hopes and dreams, to accept them as fully flawed and multi-faceted and worthy.
Are there any people in your life who have been particularly inspiring for you?
My best friends: Briana, Ann, Darko, Rebecca and Brian. They’ve created a space where we can be in community, completely bare, completely flawed, and be seen as beautiful and capable. I love their love. It sustains me. One of the squad, in fact, I married. Brian is the most beautiful human I’ve ever known. I feel lucky to share my life with him.
What's something about yourself that not many people know?
I sucked my thumb until the age of twelve.
Why are you proud to be who you are?
It took me a long time to be proud of myself and it feels like a practice I push myself to cultivate each and everyday. Pride month is especially important in this practice for me because I get to revel in who I’ve always been, in an identity that has shaped the course of my life for the better. I’m endlessly proud of that.
What is one thing that you wish everyone would remind themselves every day?
That we are all worthy of an just and equitable world that supports and affirms our existence in this world. We are the artists, the healers, the champions of justice, the magic makers — this world needs us, we are needed. We are vital to the possibilities of what humanity can be.
Why is it important to love yourself?
Self love is the basis of any other love we wish to accept. You can’t give if your well is empty, so we fill it by loving ourselves first.
What's next for you?
A big personal project on the contributions of Africans to American food ways by examining the agricultural skills and science exploited during the Trans Atlantic slave trade.
Any advice that you can share that will empower others to be who they are?
Freedom is being yourself and a full life has to be lived freely. The more visible and open we are, the more we encourage others to live in their truth.
Lastly, what do you hope for people to take away from your Fujifilm Instax Film series for the upcoming Space 15 Twenty group show?
I speak in images often so I hope my idea of summer is pretty clear in my images: I am a summer baby, a Cancer who loves to indulge in food, colors, and making portraits of women + femmes.
Check out more details on the upcoming UO Pride Fujifilm Instax Group Show here!
Follow Oriana on Instagram