Top 30 Under 30

My Freelance job at Xtra Vancouver permits me to meet such amazing people.
Case in point when Xtra hired me to shoot 7 of the 30 folks honoured in their 'Top 30 Under 30' List of B.C.'s brightest young Queer leaders. Meet the Top 7!!


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Primal He{Art}

The Primal He{Art} series was inspired from a photo project I was invited to participate in based out of Toronto called the 10x10 Photography Project. The ten year Project is in its third year and each year invites ten photographers to create ten portraits of individuals who have contributed to the LGBTQ arts in Canada. Those 100 portraits were showcased at a Gallery in Toronto in June and also published in a gorgeous photo book. I was also fortunate to have the Project accepted into Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival Curated Show in August.

My series honoured ten Vancouver artists and the primal heart connection they feel to their artistic expression. I invited my ten subjects to choose words that described what their artistic expression evoked for them. Those deeply intimate words were then spray painted onto their bodies by artist Carole Lagimodiere, and they were then photographed semi nude. I have experienced firsthand the vulnerability of sharing one’s art with the world and I felt that having them pose in the nude would help to illustrate that vulnerability. I also love how light and shadow can create texture, form and beauty when photographing the human body.

I endeavored to create an atmosphere of collaboration with my artists with poses and lighting that would suit their personalities and to some extent their gender expression. I took the duty that the 10x10 Project bestowed upon me very seriously as I wanted to honour these individuals by creating compelling and beautiful images for them. A lot of folks helped with this Project and I’m extremely proud of what we have all created together.


When the Sun Comes Out

I never thought I would utter these words. I loved this Opera. I saw the workshop last summer at the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver. Well, I had to see it. I was photographing it for them. Seriously, it was not what I expected. First of all, I developed an instant crush on the lead soprano. Secondly, the male role broke my heart. Like tears in my eyes and heart crushing compassion for his story, that kind of broke my heart.

This was the largest, longest and most elaborate photo shoot I've ever done and involved the collaborative efforts of 12 people to pull it off. It was so worth it. We created some awesome images for the Opera. The Georgia Straight, Xtra and the Courier all featured the images which had enormous impact in its promotion.

The Opera is so poignant today in a 2013 world where we can still be tortured and murdered for simply being who we are.

From the Queer Arts Festival website - "When the Sun Comes Out is the world premiere of Canada’s first lesbian opera, commissioned by QAF. This ground-breaking new work is written by composer Leslie Uyeda and poet Rachel Rose, and directed by James Fagan Tait.

A story of forbidden love, divided loyalties and culture clash, the opera explores the oppression that queers face, and the risks they take, in nations where homosexuality is illegal."


From left to right: Aaron Durand, Teiya Kasahara, Julia Morgan, and Leslie Uyeda (with baton).


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Queer Hero

It was my great honour to photograph Vancouver lawyer barbara findlay for Xtra West newspaper. barbara is one of many LGBTQ individuals who were recent recipients of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In the past year I have witnessed events I never imagined possible in my lifetime, and there is still much work to be done for equality. Thank you barbara for advocating for LGBTQ rights for over 30 years and for continuing to do so.

Read barbara findlay's full story in Xtra Vancouver.


(as seen in Xtra West newspaper)

The Mr/s. Movember Project story

by Aileen Penner

Vancouver photographer Belle Ancell had a vision of handsome queer women in moustaches. For Movember, she made it happen. On a fall day as the rain poured outside, and Madonna reverberated on the stereo inside, six queer women sat for their close-up. The camera clicked and the first queer Movember Project in Canada, "Mr/s. Movember", was born.

The Movember art campaign is a series of six queer female models ranging in age from early twenties to late forties, photographed in portrait, and in a moustache. Movember is a global campaign to raise funds and awareness about men's health - specifically prostate cancer. This year, the organization has added mental health to the campaign.

Belle Ancell is a celebrated child of the 70's and loves moustaches. She heard about the Movember campaign when she relocated to Vancouver two years ago. "I thought it was a fabulous way to create dialogue about prostate cancer and to support men's health. I kind of wished I could participate and grow a moustache myself. And that is how the idea for Mr/s. Movember came about," Ancell explains. She thought it would be fun to get a group of handsome queer women together to rock their own moustaches.

The photos in "Mr/s. Movember" are about identify, playing with identity, and raising awareness by prompting private and public conversations in the GLBTQ community about health. Some of the models in the project identify as lesbian, butch, male, female and all of the above. Yet all queer women have men in their lives - whether they are partners, brothers, fathers, uncles, nephews, or sons who are dealing with prostate cancer and mental health issues.

"One of the great things about Movember is that having a moustache starts conversation and gets Canadians talking about their health", said Peter Bombaci, National Director, Movember Canada. "It's the power of the moustache that has raised awareness and reduced stigma surrounding prostate cancer and it's exciting to have the opportunity to do the same for mental health."

"I am very happy to see this year's Movember campaign focusing on the LGBTQ community more and for including anti-bullying and mental health in its funding for this year", says Ancell. She says this is just the beginning for the Mr/s. Movember photo project. Over the next year she will be photographing more women and having a fundraising gallery opening of all the images in support of the 2013 Movember campaign.

Mr/s. Models are: Chris, Rina, Kaylee, Robin, SD and Palmer. Isabelle Champigny (Visual Effects Makeup Artist), and Katrina Gurr and Kelsey-Ann Derksen-Hatt (Assistants).


 Gratitude extended to Aileen Penner for the above article on the Mr/s. Movember Project.

Visit Aileen's BLOG to read the more in depth article on the Mr/s. Project and the Movember Campaign.


 To see more of my Personal Projects please visit my LGBT portraiture