An Iconic Image, Revisited

When I first discovered Chloe Sherman’s iconic photograph “Kindred Spirits, 1994” I was moved by the tenderness and intimacy she was able to capture in a single snapshot—intimacy between two women, two Jewish women.

“Kindred Spirits” appears in Sherman’s debut monograph Renegades: San Francisco: The 1990s. She explores gender, sexuality, butch/femme culture, and queer community during a pivotal time in LGBTQ+ history. For Lilith, Sherman and I talked about the intersections of being Jewish, queer, and an artist, and she shared the stories behind some of these evocative photographs.

Alexa Hulse: What inspired you to take these photos in the 90s? Why are you revisiting them now?
I moved to San Francisco in 1991 and fell in love with the city. The vibrance and creativity of the community really was my inspiration. There was so much going on at the time. A club, event, a show, or place to go most nights of the week. This body of work largely encompasses my community, my friends, my family, my environment, and my daily life. I always had my camera with me, and I photographed copiously. My intention was always to show the world an inside view—to expose the resilience, tenderness, and joy that I witnessed and experienced in this burgeoning scene.

Today this work is not just my art, but exposes an important slice of queer history. The 90s were a time before gay marriage was legal, before LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood and politics. There was a need for communal support in a big way. In retrospect, it is clear we were at a crux, at a turning point with LGBTQ+ acceptance and rights. Reviewing all of these photos has just reiterated what a pivotal, ground- breaking time it was in the city during this unique time of unapologetic celebration of difference and homecoming. It is important to see how far we have come.

Alexa Hulse interviews Chloe Sherman, Lilith Online, July 2023