Paul-Romulus Penciu

Electric Chapel

Paul-Romulus Penciu is a third year Photography student. His striking work stems from sexuality and taboo within religion, and his project uses bold imagery to depict this.

Photography - BA (Hons)

Give us a brief overview of your project

Electric Chapel is a reinterpretation of important biblical events in which all of the characters are in fact queer persons: from The Fall of Adam, where both Adam and Eve were banished from Garden of Eden, but in this instance I have Adam and Steve and the Devil is a queer drag artist, and this moment represents in a way the incipient moment of gay love, leaving the Garden of Eden actually brought freedom and not shame; The Last Supper, where I represent Jesus and I am surrounded by queer icons from Birmingham (dancers, drag artists and burlesque performers); lastly the Ascension of Jesus, where I will play the role of Jesus but with the idea that I am fully embracing my queerness and I am becoming one with the love I bear for another man and the community I found in Birmingham.

In a way this is a self-portrait project because I am present in every instance, whether I am the one taking the picture, therefore being omnipresent, or being present in the images through the depiction of Jesus.
Ultimately this project is about creating a safe place for myself, where I can express my authenticity and my views on the world and spread love.

Why did you choose this concept?

Homosexuality has been seen as a sin, a violation of the divine and natural law. Growing up gay in a heavily religious country such as Romania, everyone around was saying that queer people deserve to burn in Hell for simply existing. Even though I do not consider myself a religious person, I wanted to create a project that sits at the intersection of the context I was brought up into and the way I identify myself today.

This project is a manifesto of love and sexual liberation. A love letter to anyone and everyone. A way of taking back the power and turning it into celebration of who I am and who I love. WE carry deep love and affection. No more hiding. WE love with our minds, hearts, and souls. No more hiding. WE love with our skin, touch, and bodies. No more hiding. WE are woman, man and in-between. No more hiding. LOVE is affection. LOVE is sex. LOVE is a touch. LOVE is a kiss. LOVE is a smile. Love is a caress. LOVE all that LOVE is, and all that LOVE does, cause we all are LOVE.

What processes have you been using?

I wanted this project to be a culmination of collaborations. Hence, I collaborated with students from the Design for Performance course, and they have created the Tree of Knowledge for me. I wanted to have some of the Birmingham queer icons included in the project such as: Black Peppa, which was a finalist on RuPaul's Drag Race season 4, Dominus Von Vexo, a very proeminent and well-known burlesque drag artist, and many other queer artists. On top of that, I also wanted to include my self-portraiture in the equation so that the whole project will somehow showcase my whole skillset.

On top of that I wanted to experiment with different types of lighting, from the standard set-up to adding gels and using an optical snoot.

What do you hope to achieve with your project?

As far as my hopes for this project go, I do have some on a personal level and on a professional level.
On a personal level, I hope that this will become my foundation as a queer artist creating queer art. Having the freedom to express myself fully, unapologetically, and sharing my story and my view on the world will allow my creativity to flow freely and endlessly.

On a professional level, I hope that this project will open up conversations about different aspects that the LGBTQI+ community faces everyday, the contexts that we are brought into, the beauty, the colors and the love that we as a community have for each other and the world.

Coming from an ex-communist country I feel that right now I found my voice and I have the opportunity to use it to celebrate and educate, but mostly showcase the uniqueness and the talent of the queer community.

How has your course helped you to prepare for working on your project?

I think third year had the most impact on my style and my craft. On one hand, this time the conversations with my tutors felt as if we were two artists discussing art and ways of expressing whatever we wanted to express. Being treated with respect, seen as an equal and being supported in everything you do, will create the environment where you feel powerful and confident, so you're not afraid to make mistakes, because you do have the tenacity to go in and try again. On the other hand, bringing in various practitioners and having conversations with them, listening to their stories, asking for their guidance, in a way it brought a sense of hope and looking forward to the future.

Even though I am a more technical, obsessed with studio lighting type of photographer, those moments when you connect with your tutors and other people on an artistic level, and also feeling safe to express whatever your heart wants to express, I think this is the most valuable thing that this course has provided for me.