Quil Lemons

Quiladelphia: Quil Lemons on Breaking Old Paradigms

Show Notes


Quil Lemons is a photographer and artist renowned for his innovative contributions to commercial and fine arts spaces. As a Black queer creative force, he defies labels and uses his work to authentically represent the multifaceted aspects of his identity. The youngest photographer to capture Vanity Fair’s cover (featuring Billie Eilish), Lemons is featured in The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion, as well as in many other publications, including Garage, i-D, and W. Recently, he debuted his first solo show, Quiladelphia, in the Hannah Traore Gallery. Lemons’s work extends beyond capturing images; it is a form of activism and storytelling that pushes boundaries and challenges societal norms. He is reshaping narratives around authenticity and sexuality, and fostering open dialogues within the LGBTQ+ community. In this conversation, Lemons shines light on how he’s breaking barriers in the industry, celebrating Black queer masculinity, and blazing a trail for future Black artists. He shares his secret sauce for creating one’s reality and changing one’s industry. What’s Contemporary Now? A utopia. A vision of a world with no pain.

Episode Highlights
  • Surrounded by art: Attending Julia R. Masterman was a formative part of Quil’s adolescent years. Going on to attend the Charter High School for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia, art and creativity have always surrounded him.
  • Champion of authenticity: Quil has been a champion of authenticity from a young age, constantly questioning what adults thought and deciding to go against the grain of society. “How am I going to beat the odds?” was always his guiding motto.
  • Empowered by femininity: Raised by strong Black women, Quil viewed women and femininity as fragile, yet powerful and beautiful.
  • Race, gender, and privilege: Quil believes that, in comparison to Black men, white men often have a privilege when it comes to sexuality and self-expression (such as fashion).
  • Quiladelphia: Through photography and raw conversation, Quil sought to change the entrenched notions of Black masculinity, family, queer sexuality, race, intimacy, and beauty. It showcases his fight to exist.
  • Sex positivity and sex work: Quil wouldn’t be able to make art if sex workers weren’t part of the conversation. He speaks on porn and OnlyFans as integral parts of the queer community, as well as catalysts for changing the narrative around nudity, sexuality, shame, and even HIV.
  • Family feedback: “I grew up pretty Christian on my mom’s side and pretty Muslim on my dad’s side, and so it was a family full of religion,” Quil says. “But they came to the show, and they loved it. They loved where I’m at and my journey as a person and that I am unafraid and I don’t give a fuck what anyone has to say about what I’m doing with my life because it’s my own.”
  • Feeling different: Quil pushed himself to be vulnerable, which he believes is the whole point of being an artist. Watching his community support him gratifies and motivates him to keep going.
  • Editorial vs. commercial: Quil loves infiltrating traditionally white spaces with his fully authentic self. “Watch me do all of these spaces because there is no limitation on my creativity and where my art could go,” he says.
  • Changing the industry: The rules of the fashion industry are changing. “The New Black Vanguard” is changing the industry. It doesn’t come without pushback, but Quil is pushing forward to keep the fashion industry evolving.
  • The secret sauce to creating your reality? Quil is blissfully unaware of negativity, he’s goal-oriented, and he knows there’s always a way around a “no.” To be successful is to be delusional.
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