Dustin Thierry

2013 - Ongoing

Bamako, Mali; Willemstad, Curacao


Documenting the opulent Ballroom scenes of Europe.

In Opulence, Dustin Thierry uses a deeply personal experience in order to explore the wider realities of Queer existence. The ongoing photographic series began in 2013 after the death of the artist’s brother, a polysexual man who dreamed of following Thierry to Europe to escape the often rampant homophobia of the Caribbean. Black people from the former colonies and the Caribbean islands in the Netherlands are increasingly racialised and objectified. This project seeks to break out of this dichotomy by portraying these subjects in unadorned, raw yet graceful portraits. The exhibition—which documents Queer Ballroom culture across Europe—is an ode not only to those forgotten or lost, but also to those who are not yet able to be true to their sexual identity.

Although the work depicts mostly Black and young people of colour in European settings, there are complex postcolonial overtones to these photos being displayed in the Netherlands, an adopted country and sanctuary for Curaçao-born Thierry, but one which has yet to fully reckon with its post-imperial identity—and the social responsibilities it has to the citizens of former colonies. Opulence has several prints that are enhanced with UV-visible ink: curatorial decisions which gesture towards the experience of concealment and invisibility yet to be overcome by Thierry’s subjects.

‘Families’ or ‘chapters’ organize vibrant meetings that offer emancipatory possibilities of expression that relate to gender and/or race issues in a trustworthy environment where fashion and attitude mix with mutual understanding. Through the ongoing experiment of Opulence, Thierry focuses on the communities in Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan and Paris in which his brother would have moved had he come to Europe. In doing so, he creates an imagined future through which his memory can survive. Shot outside ballroom events, with themes that range from “On the Cover of Vogue” to “Cleopatra”, these are people and places whose stories hold within them any number of spaces for characters of the future.

The project records my attempt to build a living archive of feelings, gender expressions and LGBTQ identities of the Black Caribbean diaspora in the Netherlands as a testimony of the vitality and longevity of the Black LGBTQ community in The Netherlands and the Caribbean.

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