Leighton House Museum - Museums Association

Leighton House Museum

A photographic exhibition at Leighton House Museum in London in November 2012 took the Arabic word Kütmaan, which means the act of hiding or concealing, to introduce the realities of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Middle East

The exhibition formed part of a five-year photographic project by Bradley Secker, who photographed these individuals between 2010 and 2013.

The images on display in Kütmaan: Exploring the realities of LGBT lives and culture in the Middle East (5 – 30 November 2012) told diverse personal stories and related the experiences of those who are forced to claim asylum based on their sexuality or gender identity.

The exhibition highlighted the circumstances of gay Iraqi men who been forced to leave their homes since 2010 due to homophobia and seek asylum in Syria, and who are then displaced or resettled into Turkey. The exhibition also explored LGBT Kurdish identity in south eastern Turkey and documented how these communities are seeking legal equality and acceptance.

Other important themes considered included the prolonged wait of Iranian LGBT refugees in central Anatolia before their resettlement in Europe or North America.

Secker, a British photojournalist and documentary photographer who is currently based in Istanbul, says the subjects of his work have been “displaced from their country, their family and their friends”.

While the photographer’s role is to document the lives of subjects in a way that is as non-intrusive and non-disruptive as possible, the display of such images presents a challenge to viewers’ expectations, preconceptions and potential prejudices.

The Kütmaan exhibition invited visitors to reflect on a highly-charged issues in contemporary society, to promote social justice, human rights, fairness and equality.