An Ascension

‘An Ascension’ aims to represent the complexities of queerness, hope, love and devotion, as seen through the lens of a Catholic education.

In August 2022 my same-sex partner and I got married; having been in a relationship for almost six years, we both agreed to the commitment of life-long unity. ‘An Ascension’ is a body of work that explores queerness, love, hope and devotion, begun during our period of engagement. 

As a child I received a Catholic education, one that outwardly taught the sins of deviation from the heterosexual path. About the time I began to move away from this faith, I experienced my first homosexual feelings, or at least the first feelings I understood to be so. From this point on, my understanding of my own sexuality and the directions in which my orientation would point developed; however, the influence of Catholic guilt lingered. Despite being openly gay with close friends and family by the age of 18, I couldn’t escape the visions of myself one day marrying, and starting a family with a woman. While my relationship to my own sexuality has evolved since that time, I still feel the lingering shadow of that Catholic outlook on homosexuality over my shoulder. 

In ‘An Ascension’ I study these shadows, searching for an equilibrium between the closeness and companionship I have with my husband, and the conflicting ideas of what a family or union should look like, presented to me throughout my Catholic education. The series encompasses research around Sara Ahmed’s ideas of Queer Phenomenology, José Esteban Muñoz’s ideas of Queer Futurity, and the symbol of Mary Magdalene, who becomes an icon by whom I measure myself. In colour self portraits taken from phone video footage, I liken myself to representations of Mary Magdalene – visualising an innate desire to squeeze myself into the stereotypically heteronormative understanding of what a lover to a man should look like.

An Ascension’ aims to represent the complexities of queer love, as seen through the lens of a Catholic influence. My present day self looks back to my eleven year old self, who returns a hopeful gaze; simultaneously, I look ahead to the promise of marital bliss and the potential of queer unity.

© Michael Swann - Image from the An Ascension photography project
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The Cave of Sainte Baume - the legend is that this is the location in which Mary Magdalene spent the last 30 years of her life after Jesus' death. There, she rested in complete devotion to Jesus, only communicating with angels and experiencing ecstacy. This cave is in the South of France, just 40 minutes from where my partner grew up.

© Michael Swann - Image from the An Ascension photography project
i

The Cave of Sainte Baume - the legend is that this is the location in which Mary Magdalene spent the last 30 years of her life after Jesus' death. There, she rested in complete devotion to Jesus, only communicating with angels and experiencing ecstacy. This cave is in the South of France, just 40 minutes from where my partner grew up.