Queer

 

Summer Puente
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2008


Identification is a crisis we should all be fortunate to experience and conquer. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Sexual identity is complex, sometimes oversimplified, and sometimes overcomplicated. Chantel Ligget knows what she is. Chantel is queer. The term queer was once a derogatory word used for homosexuals, but has made a revival in our generation. Young people are taking the term back and claiming it as an identity. The term is self-empowering and there are few people on Duke’s campus who use it.
Following her through the months and the events she frequented, I not only learned some of her life, but of those around her. Exploring the life of someone other than heterosexual is a very different experience wherever you go; location and demographic determine the amount of hostility or acceptance. Duke University is a changing place with the help of strong, out individuals like Chantel.


Overall, I took over 1150 photographs in the completion of this project, 350 of which have Chantel as the primary subject, and I shot about eight or nine times. The project was a bit overwhelming. Concentrating on the life of Chantel helped me to have a focal point and to put a face and a voice to many issues. I didn’t want this to be packed with information on how to be an ally, or the hot topics for gay issues, or how to get free condoms. I wanted this to be a project on a woman who goes to Duke University, and how some things are different, or the same, as a student if you identify as queer. I am pleased with the outcome and being able to have explored many facets of Chantel’s life, while leaving some things ambiguous. She is a well-known and respected individual who hopes to become a professor in gender and sexuality studies, and aspires above all else to be a mother. I hope that I have captured a bit of her youth and a bit of her drive and a bit of her passion. I think I’ve done that.