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Vintage snapshots transformed to create an LGBTQ fictional historical narrative

CMU faculty member’s project renowned worldwide


​​​Using vintage snapshots from the 1920s to the 1950s, Kris Sanford is creating an imagined history of same-sex relationships.

“Growing up queer, I searched for a history that spoke to me,” said Sanford, an assistant professor of art and design at Central Michigan University. “In my family history, there were no couples that mirrored my own intimate relationships.”  

Sanford finds photographs at antique stores, flea markets and even family photo albums, and transforms them through selective cropping and implied narratives.


“I look for pictures with a specific, intimate gesture that tells a story,” Sanford said. “When I crop the photos, the figures become anonymous, and I’m able to create my interpretation of a gay and lesbian history.”​

This award-winning collection, titled “Through the Lens of Desire,” was recently on display at the 10th annual GETXOPHOTO festival in Getxo, Spain. 

The exhibit featured 20 select international photographers whose work focused on the theme of time. Sanford also has exhibited this collection of photos around the world, including in New York City, London, Amsterdam, Chicago and Houston. ​

Three photos from "Through the Lens of Desire"​​

Three photos from "Through the Lens of Desire"

View more photos​ from "Through the Lens of Desire."


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