Dear Instagram thank you for introducing me to Andie Meadows, the fierce photographer behind the queer visibility project, Queens Who Bathe. Andie uses her keen eye not only to authentically capture people but also to empower them and cultivate relationships. Plus she always has the deets on all things queer in Chicago. So without further ado, meet Chicago Photographer and Queer Historian, Andie Meadows.
WCW: Why did you start the photography project, Queens Who Bathe?
Andie: I am forever craving sustainable collaborative practices and when I purchased my home with its claw foot tub in July of last year, I had a photoshoot with my dear friends and collaborators Abhijeet and J, just for fun. We found that there’s something inherently intimate and comfortable about using the tub as a set. After that shoot, I couldn’t stop thinking about the versatility of the space so I sent out an open call on Instagram for any Chicago Queer fam who wanted to get in the tub.
Queer people really need pampering and decadence. Constantly working hard and being spread thin can feel like an integral part of queer identity, so something as simple as taking a decadent bath reminds me that while we have so much work to do, we can also exhale. Queens Who Bathe is a way for me to facilitate and celebrate that exhale with queer folk who are working so tirelessly to build the incredible spaces and community we have here in Chicago.
In addition to being a photographer, I am a queer historian and as this project has grown and expanded into the community it’s become about capturing and documenting the essences of Chicago’s fierce queer community today. Our young people won’t have to scour obscure archives and track down living storytellers to know that femme, trans, people of color, and gender-non-conforming folks have always existed and thrived in this city just as hard as the hyper-visible boys of Boystown.
WCW: What do you hope people take away from viewing the images?
Andie: I hope that folks learn more about their community. Every person that I photograph is somehow involved in making Chicago a better place for queer people. From radical drag to body positive burlesque, queer feminist comedy, tattoo artists, nightlife organizers, etc. everyone who’s been in the tub is working tirelessly for us and you should know about their work and feel a part of it.
WCW: What, if anything has surprised you about this experience as you open your home to Queens throughout the community?
Andie: I am constantly amazed at how radically different and special each shoot continues to be. It’s the same ol’ bathroom that I use every day but every person that I invite in completely transforms the space and makes it their own. That’s magic. The identities I get to capture come through so powerfully and never cease to amaze me.
WCW: Are there any other upcoming projects you want people to know about?
Andie: Always and forever there are other upcoming projects! On March 22nd I am putting on an event at the Chicago History Museum called Dressing for Disobedience: Turning Heads Ain’t Nothing New which will celebrate contemporary queer fashion designers and contextualize them within a greater history of queerness and fashion.
I am also giving a number of Queer walking tours through Chicago for Chicagoans and CHM through the summer. There’s also always work in nightlife, either shooting promo or actual events. My Instagram is the best place to keep in the loop for that sort of activity.
WCW: We want to get to know you better so what are five random facts about yourself?
1) I grew up on a daffodil farm in Maryland
2) am on the OUT Committee at the Chicago History Museum
3) I have a boring day job that pays my bills and is unrelated to my passion projects, like most other folks out here hustling.
4) I have a 17 lb cat named Gertrude Stein
5) Gertrude Stein loves sitting on wigs and glitter and sparkles during Queens Who Bathe shoots.
WCW: What do you hope the models take away from their #QueensWhoBathe session?
Andie: When folks tell me they felt comfortable or that they felt their gender and identity were fully represented, that’s when I know I’ve done my job. I’d say 80% of being an ethical and queer photographer is facilitating comfort for whoever you’re working with in front of the camera, behind the scenes and beyond. So, when I’m able to achieve that it’s everything to me. I want to continue to build an audience and platform so that folks I photograph and the amazing work they do gets more exposure and engagement. There’s also just something so magical about drawing a bath for my peers who are working so tirelessly. Giving them a moment to shine and relax.
WCW: How should people contact you if they want to book a session or be photographed for this project?
All featured images were captured by Andie Meadows.