“A Dream Assignment”: Alicia Vera Contributes to Time’s LGBTQ Bar Exposé

Dec 5, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

When an iconic publication comes calling and asks you to contribute to a story that hits close to home, there’s only one way to describe it:

It was a dream assignment.

Alicia Vera, a documentary and editorial photographer who splits her time between Mexico and Miami, heard from Time Magazine photo editor Kara Milstein about shooting imagery for a piece “documenting LGBTQ safe spaces across the U.S.”  

It was my first assignment for them, and I was elated to get the email. Being a queer woman from Florida, I was stoked that Time asked me to contribute to the piece.

Perfect width!

The Floridian spent one day at Parliament House, a 44-year old LGBTQ resort that has a sweet pool, some well-stocked bars, and a night club. Alicia received complete creative freedom from Time, with Kara only requiring a shot of the pool party.

Pool party

Alicia also attended a drag show that same evening and got a shot of one of the performers, which she shared on her Instagram page. While on assignment, Alicia learned a lot about the history of Parliament and its significance to the LGBTQ community in the area. It is a tight-knit group that features people of all ages, who have forged a special bond with each other in the face of multiple unspeakable tragedies.  

I hadn't heard of Parliament before. I learned that it was a safe space for the queer community during the height of the AIDS crisis. The management lent out the hotel rooms to those living with HIV/AIDS and who oftentimes were shunned by their family members or could not afford to pay rent or their medical bills. 

Enjoying the drag show

Being at Parliament House was like being on set of the Showtime series Queer as Folk. It had a total 90s vibe to it. I met around 60 people who were excited that I was there. They told me stories about the queer community in northern Florida and said that Pulse [nightclub shooting in 2016] was heartbreaking for them. The silver lining is that the community is closer than ever, but it was absolutely painful. 

Though it was in many ways a sobering experience, Alicia was proud to have completed the work. Part of the reason was the obvious connection she feels to the Parliament patrons, but part was also due to the fact that her images were included in the same project with those of some of her favorite photographers.  

When I saw the work published, I was even more happy to see that I had contributed to something that a lot of photographers that I admire, like Isadora Kosofsky and Rebecca Kiger, worked on as well.

While a lively place with a palpable party atmosphere, Parliament featured a number of chances for Alicia to get more “realistic” shots of gay men in their element.

My favorite image of the two that were published is the one of the two older men in the pool. I feel that it's unexpected.

Alicia's favorite image

When one thinks of a pool party mostly aimed at gay men, one tends to think of the stereotypical images of young and fit men that we often see presented. The image I took of the older couple represents something more realistic and says something about long lasting queer relationships that we often don't see. 

Alicia knocked this project out of the park, so much so that Time has been in contact about future work. Though she hasn’t gone on assignment for the publication again yet, there’s a good chance another one is in the offing.

The editor was happy with the images I sent and said that they "add[ed] something totally different to the whole project." I suspect that I will be working with them again soon. 

Credits:

Editor: Kara Milstein
Assistant: Sarah Espedido

Check out more of Alicia's work at aliciavera.com.

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