OUT OF THE CLOSET by Ernest Coppejan / via Yagazie Emezi
“Out of the closet come” means without exception, rejection by family and friends, no work and the risk of imprisonment of up to ten years.
Ernst had 45 people willing to let portray themselves, thereby giving a face to the hidden and forbidden life of the gay scene in West Africa .
As a product designer Coppejans (1974) visited West Africa regularly for work. As much as he enjoyed the countries, each time he realized he could never really be himself. A situation that West African gay men and lesbians have to deal with every day.
Coppejans – now an accomplished photographer – wanted to tell this story by giving this anonymous group a face through a series of portraits. Easier said than done. But through the help of the COC and Human Rights Watch, last winter he managed to get in touch with two persons who fight for the rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). They put him into contact with several young people he then portrayed.
Now, six months later, there is a wonderful series of portraits of brave Africans. “I met beautiful, sweet, inspirational and talented young people who refuse to hide behind a heterosexual marriage and therefore have no future. Some stories brought me to tears. It was tremendously brave of them to cooperate with me on this project.