Ramzy Masri’s Instagram page is a rainbow-colored celebration; the artist uses the colors of LGBTQIA+ identity flags in their work as a way to “reimagine the world as a magical queer-normative space.” Masri explains, “It’s an invitation to connect to your inner child and discover a more vibrant tomorrow, one that honors the rainbow of gender and sexual expression.”
And Masri’s technicolor style now extends to Photoshop Camera, a new camera app that can intelligently apply the best lenses and filters for your photos—before you even take the shot. Masri created a lens that is now part of the app; it includes variations that represent LGBTQIA+ flags, along with adding butterflies (which are often an element of their work).
We recently spoke to Masri about their work and about the lens they created for Photoshop Camera.
Create: How do you describe your work, or your point of view as an artist?
Ramzy Masri: My work is about creating an imaginative safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community by continuing the legacy of Gilbert Baker, the original designer of the Pride flag. By infusing the world around us with the colors of the Pride flag, I hope to reclaim these spaces as magical, queer-normative fantasies that allow people to dream of a utopia we’ve yet to build—one that honors the spectrum of human gender identity and sexuality. As an artist, I strive to use my work to start important conversations about equality, climate action, human rights, and diversity.
Create: We just love your Instagram feed—it’s so joyful and colorful. The phrase at the top really rings true: “Every Day Is a Pride March.” What does that mean to you? How does that phrase affect your work?
RM: Thank you! So, in our community we always say that there’s an important distinction between a Pride parade and a Pride march. We don't have parades, and we never will until LGBTQIA+ rights around the world are recognized and formalized into law. As Marsha P. Johnson so famously said, “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” This rings true for the Black Lives Matter movement, and this is why it is so important for our community to stand in solidarity with the cause.
Also, I always say that Pride starts in the mirror. It’s an everyday affirmation of our right to exist and take up space in the world, something that so much of the world tells us we’re not allowed to do. Being proud of yourself in the face of discrimination and adversity takes a depth of character we’ve fought hard to own. This struggle isn’t just in June; it is every single day when we look in the mirror and recognize that we are whole and perfect exactly the way we are.
This affects the urgency of my work because it’s all about creating those spaces for people (even if they’re imaginary) to feel at home. Gilbert Baker’s Pride flag shows us the bars, restaurants, and venues in cities and towns across the world where we’re welcome. That flag applied to the world...well, it tells folks that this planet is ours. too.
Create: How did you mark Pride month this year? With so much happening in the world, and with the uprising and protests against systemic racism and racial injustice that are happening across the country, what’s different about how you’re marking the month? How are you thinking about Pride?
RM: That’s a great question: The world is very different this year, and I'm really thankful for this opportunity to turn inward and interrogate my privilege, to ask myself hard questions and to do the work unlearning systemic racism that we’re all inundated with from birth. I’m mixed-race, so these conversations hit close to home for me, too. My intersectional identity is a blessing—it allows me to be a bridge between different groups. Between Arabs and Americans, between upper and lower class, between folks from the South and people in big coastal cities, between gays and non-binary people, and between religious straight cisgender people and Brooklyn polyamorous Wiccan couch-surfing freegans. It’s not my job to educate, but I find joy in changing hearts and minds and teaching people about others. That’s what this month has been about for me. Yes, it has been less public in terms of sharing my work on Instagram, but it’s been more heart-to-heart, personal conversations with friends and family about how we can do better and why this movement is important. Pride started as a protest, from Black and Brown trans and gender non-conforming folks who said, “Enough is enough.” We cannot leave these members of our community behind, and I have been so proud to see the LGBTQIA+ community use Pride month as a platform for these conversations.
Create: And has sheltering-in-place or quarantining changed your creative routine at all?
RM: Since this quarantine began, I've really returned to cooking as a way of expressing my creativity. I feel like I’m always thinking about food and what I'm going to cook next. I mean, I've always been a foodie but now that I'm designing my own menus and cooking three meals a day, it has been a real treat to have a chance to practice cooking and to show love to my partner through a beautiful meal.
Create: Let’s talk about the filters: What inspired you as you were creating them?
RM: The filters are all about giving people visual tools to express their unique identities. I think folks forget how many unique identities are in the LGBTQIA+ community. Most people default to gay, but we also represent asexual, pansexual, trans, non-binary, and more. Each of these distinct groups has their own flag, and I wanted to create a lens that honors this diversity. Also, you can be trans and pansexual. Or non-binary and lesbian. So the filters allow this layering that instantly visually communicates a person’s nuanced intersectional identity. You can layer the flags together to tell a story—I created the lens in Photoshop, using semi-transparent masks and gradients.