Book Cover for North of the Border By Heather FaulknerDocumentary photographer Heather Faulkner recently released her photo book North of the Border: Stories from the ‘A Matter of Time Project’, capturing the stories of eight lesbians who grew up in Queensland in the 1970s.

The book explores how the experience of existing outside of the ‘norm’ informs each individual’s identity as Queenslanders today.

“These are images that recognize lesbian lives as they are lived in whole.”

Inspiration for North of the Border was born from the different experiences within the LGBT community Heather had after moving to Brisbane in 2003 with her partner, whom she met while living in Prague. Unlike the LGBT communities in Prague and Vancouver, where Heather is originally from, the pair found “a very quiet LGBT scene.”

Working as a photojournalist for the mainstream press, Heather recalls an abrupt exchange she experienced while covering Brisbane Pride for the first time. She found that the reception of mainstream press differed from her experiences in Canada, the US, and Europe.

“As I was walking around, two women stopped me and began interrogating me. ‘Who are you? What newspaper are you from,’ (grabbing my press ID), and ‘what are you going to use these pictures for? How can you guarantee they won’t be used maliciously!’”

This was not the only incident that Heather was confronted about her presence at an event. She notes that a few months later a similar exchange happened at a Big Gay Day Event.  She recalls that as she was walking through the crowd towards the stage with her press ID and press cameras a group of women surrounded her and were trying to “psyche me out”.

Heather says that this response “coupled with the pretty intense homophobia I was witnessing (and experiencing) in Queensland, piqued my interest. What, I thought, was going on? What history has contributed to this?”

While teaching photojournalism at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Heather began looking into projects that would later become the research for her doctorate.  She found that the historical-to-present-day Queensland lesbian experience had never been investigated or documented before.

“The book is an outcome from my PhD research on lesbians who experienced living in Queensland during the more conservative socio-political era of the mid-late 20th Century, and how they interpret that experience to have influenced who they are today.”

North of the Border incorporates text and photographs, creating a “more immersive reading of the stories”. Heather says, “Photography opens up dialogue; we attach meaning to images through our own experience-based interpretations. For the book’s audience, which will largely be lesbian or from the LGBTIQ community, there are familiar signs within the images, and these are images that recognize lesbian lives as they are lived in a whole.

The project evolved into “A Matter of Time Project”, telling the stories of the eight lesbians who participated through the use of video installation, documentary photography, and oral histories. The project grew much bigger than Heather originally intended with time commitments. She spent six years working with the participants, saying they remain close today.

The project itself has already had several iterations—video installations at the Museum of Brisbane’s award-winning “Prejudice and Pride” exhibition (2010), and photographic exhibitions at the Brisbane Powerhouse (2013) and The Arts Centre Gold Coast (2015). The book is another of the iterations from the A Matter of Time Project. Heather is currently discussing with potential collaborators a documentary film with animation and would love to see her graphic novel idea come to life.

“For me, as a transmedia storyteller, it’s imperative that the stories live in as many formats and on as many platforms as possible –it’s kind of like an insurance policy that makes it more difficult to erase.”

Heather intends for the book to engage older Queensland lesbians, the LGBTIQ community, and their friends in an immersive reading of the work.

“I want people to see their own histories in the book; and, in reflection, acknowledge their own histories as important, as counting, as real.”  Heather would also like to see this book “inform the broader community (LGBTIQ and mainstream) the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of belonging and respect for everyone.”

While Heather says this is not the final word on the Queensland lesbian experience it will “open a dialogue about experiences of sexuality in Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland. It is a conversation that has been muted until now precisely because the lives of these women in their younger years were largely invisible.”