To date, 339 Americans have trained to be astronauts. None have flown into space as an openly LGBTQIA+ person. Further, astronauts in NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were required to take “heterosexuality tests.”
The Gay Space Agency confronts the American space program’s historical exclusion of openly queer astronauts, reimagining a history of the space program that celebrates queerness and highlights LGBTQIA+ role models.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. However, her sexuality would not become public until 2012, when her obituary read, “Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy.” As NASA’s Artemis program aims to establish a permanent presence on the moon, this project questions what heroism looks like, and who might be a part of future exploration. Since Ride, only two astronauts have come out—both after going into space, and one outed by the media.
What if Life Magazine featured a queer astronaut’s family on its cover? What if a gay man soared into space at the height of the AIDS crisis? What if the first person to walk on Mars is gender nonconforming?
By traversing its edges, we can imagine a world not limited by anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiments.
Mackenzie Calle is a creative documentary photographer and artist who uses storytelling to largely explore forgotten histories and queer experiences. Driven by a deep passion to understand how the past influences the future, her work often uses surreal imagery and manipulated archival material to question what we hold true and examine the story that archives reveal.
Her long-term project, The Gay Space Agency, addresses the inequities for the LGBTQIA+ community in astronautics. Reckoning with a history that required astronauts to take heterosexuality tests, this work visualizes a community that has been excluded from space. The project was awarded the Magnum Foundation Counter Histories Grant and was shortlisted for the PhMuseum Women Photographers Grant.
She grew up as an athlete who was passionate about science and television. This led her to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she majored in Cinema Studies and was a member of the school’s volleyball team. For over five years she worked as a photography producer, editor, and photographer at NBCUniversal across networks that include NBC, Bravo, MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC News. In 2021, she was awarded the Director’s Fellowship to attend the Documentary Photography and Visual Journalism program at the International Center of Photography. She is currently a freelance photographer and artist based in Brooklyn. NY.
Magnum Foundation expands creativity and diversity in visual storytelling, activating new audiences and ideas through the innovative use of images. Through grant making, mentorship, and creative collaborations, we partner with socially-engaged imagemakers exploring new models for storytelling.
This program was produced with the support of Magnum Foundation’s Counter Histories initiative supporting projects that creatively reframe the past to engage with urgent questions of the present and future.
The Gay Space Agency
Featuring: Mackenzie Calle
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