Hate and Pride in Riga
Q! Gallery, Glasgow, until Wed 10 Dec
Presented by Amnesty International, this display of work by photographer Reuben Steains documents the 2008 Pride march in Riga, capital of Latvia. In scene-setting texts, stories about the previous two years’ marches being marred by significant homophobic violence and inadequate police protection do little to explode the stereotype of Baltic and Eastern European countries as being spectacularly intolerant places.
Yet, while this appears to be a photojournalistic project, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there has been a certain amount of editorialising on Steains’ part, or at least within the selection of images displayed here. While those involved in the march are pictured smiling and looking fresh-faced and thoughtful under rainbow flags, many of those who seek to stop them are depicted as twisted and angry, sporting T-shirts festooned with crude, unfunny, anti-gay slogans. With around 100 Amnesty activists from around the world marching in solidarity this year, the police presence was strong and sufficient, and no violence is recorded here other than the verbal kind.
Still, that’s enough to make the situation a sad and unpleasant one, despite the fact this all takes place on a bright summer’s day against the setting of Riga’s beautiful Old Town. While the detail of events must be found in the accompanying texts, some images do remain striking for all the wrong reasons. Young boys booing and giving thumbs-down gestures, and otherwise normal-looking young men and women in hazard suits carrying placards bearing messages like ‘Stop Pride, Stop AIDS’ and ‘The more gays, the less Latvians’ appear sadly oblivious to the hateful, throwback nature of their protest.