Lives: Visible

49 3Arts supporters
$5,824 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on April 12, 2015
    • 116% contributed

A box of lesbians. That’s how I think of the trove of over 2000 snapshots that are the heart of my new film, Lives:Visible. The photographs were taken by two lesbians - Norma and Virginia - who lived together as a couple in Chicago’s East Rogers Park neighborhood for almost 50 years. They died when they were in their 80s, leaving behind piles and boxes of snapshots of themselves and their friends that span four decades from the mid 1930s to the 1970s. The photos provide a rare look at a vanished and vibrant Lesbian culture: images of lovers and friends as they played, posed, worked, partied, drank, and aged. Lives:Visible needs funds for finishing costs that include music, sound mix, and color correction lab services all of which are expensive. With your support, we can let the lesbians out of the box so this important hidden history won’t fade away. 

About This Project

While doing background research for my interactive narrative Mixed Greens I met Patrick Gourley. I was looking for old photographs that would help me understand lesbian life in Chicago in the 1950s and early 60s. “I have a whole houseful of photos and objects,” said Patrick. He wasn’t kidding.  He had been a friend and caretaker of two elderly lesbians during the last decade of their lives. Patrick showed me the boxes of snapshots. Norma and Virginia used a Brownie camera to tell the story of lesbian and gay holiday feasts in rented halls, a faithful group of friends serially switching partners, and women holding hands in the crowded parks of Chicago. When I saw the photos I knew I had to make a film about them. Norma and Virginia had left an amazing historical treasure. 

The photographs haunt me. As a young lesbian I knew women like Norma and Virginia. As a lesbian of a later generation I live a mainstreamed life in a different world – my partner and I can marry if we choose. We have gained so much, yet some things were lost. Lives:Visible acknowledges the rewards and price of both the closet and assimilation. 

Lives:Visible is the second and final film I’m creating with these photos. The first film, Leftovers, tells the story of Norma and Virginia during the last decade of their life when they were cut off from family and community. Lives:Visible expands the story to explore the cultural and historical context of the photographs. Lives:Visible uses two cultures – Chicago’s vibrant pre-Stonewall lesbian community and the vanishing Kodak snapshot – to explore the ephemeral nature of all cultures, even life itself.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $15
    A beautiful “slide” necklace featuring a photographic still from the movie, "Lives:Visible," on a 24” metal chain. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $25
    A packet of six postcards, each printed with a different photograph from Norma and Virginia’s collection. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    A Bluray or DVD of either "Leftovers" or "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    A Bluray or DVD of BOTH "Leftovers" and "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    A 6" x 9” still from "Lives: Visible" printed on transparency in a plexiglass frame; and a Bluray or DVD of BOTH "Leftovers" and "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    A “Thank You” in the film’s credits; and a Bluray or DVD of BOTH "Leftovers" and "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1000
    A “Thank You” in the film’s credits; a limited edition 8x10” framed and signed print still from "Leftovers;" and a Bluray or DVD of BOTH "Leftovers" and "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1500
    An Associate Producer credit on the film; a limited edition 8x10” framed and signed print still from "Leftovers;" and Bluray or DVD of BOTH "Leftovers" and "Lives:Visible" ($0.00 is tax deductible.)

Michelle Citron

Michelle Citron is an award-winning digital and film artist focusing on women’s lived experiences. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Chicago, …

View Michelle Citron's profile
  • Update 1: Images of Thank Yous
    Posted on February 13, 2015


    Here are some of the great perks you can receive as a Thank You for supporting Lives:Visible.
    Thank You #1: Necklace Thank You #2: Postcards Thank You #3: Picture Thank You #4: Print from Leftovers

    Update 2: Windy City News talks about Lives:Visible
    Posted on February 13, 2015


    Wonderful article in Windy City News.  They call the snapshots an "historical treasure," which they are.

    Update 3: Gender: In the Life - blog on butch/femme
    Posted on February 13, 2015


    Mel Potter, who writes a wonderful blog on gender invited me to post.  Here's my discussion of butch/femme in pre-Stonewall Chicago, completed with amazing snapshots.

    Update 4: Thank you!
    Posted on February 15, 2015


    Thanks to all of you who have generously donated to this campaign - we reached the 1/3 way mark and 3Arts Foundation matched it.  Thank you 3 Arts!  I am deeply touched by everyone's support.

    Update 5: We hit the goal!
    Posted on March 03, 2015


    Thanks to everyone who helped this project reach it's $5000 goal.  I am so grateful all of you.  Now - stretch campaign.  So, please tell all your friends.  I still have voice over actors to pay - there are love letters and love poem I will include in the film.  

    Update 6: Windy City Times article about Lives:Visible
    Posted on April 07, 2015


    A great article in Windy City Times about Lives:Visible.

    Tell your friends - only 5 days left!

    Update 7: Thank you:
    Posted on April 13, 2015


    Thanks to all who made the Lives: Visible campaign such a success.  I am grateful to all who supported this project.  Now... to finishing the film!

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Sue Michmerhuizen

    • Melba Lara

    • H.D. Motyl

    • Laura Levitt

    • Corby Dale

    • Carole Warshaw MD

    • Katie Hanson

    • Melissa Potter

    • Lucy Smith

    • Miriam Schaer

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Quinn Stephens

    • Katherine Hepworth

    • Jennifer reeder

    • liza cowan

    • Greg Faller

    • catherine kauper-brown

    • Diane Waldman

    • Martha Gever

    • Penelope Starr

    • Michelle Padula

    • Robin Bernstein

    • Suzanne Keller

    • Pamela Bannos

    • BJ Allen

    • darcelle foster

    • Mary Syrett

    • Ariel Dougherty

    • Jan Hampton

    • Clark Richert

    • Sophie Mayer

    • Lisa Plourde

    • Nejdet Eden Unluata

    • Irene Gustafson

    • Annette Barbier

    • Lulu Belliveau

    • Alison Kelliher-Paz

    • chuck Kleinhans

    • Travis Wagner

    • liz GRAVES

    • MaryAlice Mowry

    • Patricia Erens

    • Ivelina Frantchechkova

    • Mariann Straub

    • Kathleen Supove

    • Judith Mayne

    • Liz Brace

    • Kate Schechter

    • Ann Scholhamer

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

  Joyce Logo

 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council