How Lola Flash, photographer, spends her Sundays

ByDavid M. Conte

Jun 25, 2021

Since Lola Flash joined the protest group ACT UP in the 1980s, she has made a much-loved career photographing people in a way that defies stereotypes. His portraits of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer people are now part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Brooklyn Museum and, more recently, the Museum of Modern Art. Ms. Flash, who is “62 and a half – and I’m counting half with pride,” she said, lives in Kips Bay, Manhattan, in affordable housing. She calls her one-bedroom apartment on the 33rd floor “the ghetto penthouse”.

DESCEND BY THE RIVER I try to take my 10,000 steps on Sunday, so the first thing I do after getting up around 7 am and brushing my teeth is take a long walk. I’m going to go up to 60th or 70th Street, towards the East River. When you get there it’s almost like you’re on vacation, you see so many colors. I kind of took it all in before I went back. I was a real gym bunny before the pandemic, so my body was like, what are you doing to me? I have the Covid weight gain thing going on. But I like walking. It is very good for my head, my body and my soul.

WORDS AND IMAGES I brew a cup of PG Tips tea, then I sit on my couch and do my best not to use social media too much. My mom loved playing Scrabble and both of my parents are gone, so I try to get them into my apartment in different ways. Words With Friends brings me my mother. And every other Sunday I have my Kamoinge meeting. Kamoinge are a group of African-American photographers who started in New York a long time ago. Now the meetings are over Zoom. I’m the secretary, so I have to sit down early and let everyone in, and then I take the minutes. Sometimes we show our work in the meeting, and sometimes it’s just for business. After that I will have breakfast, maybe oatmeal or eggs and oatmeal and veggie sausage. From time to time, I treat myself to challah French toast.

goddess worship I’m going to Middle Collegiate Church on Second Avenue. It’s the minister, Jackie, love it. She’s just amazing. Before my mother passed away, she really wanted me to have a church that I could belong to. Growing up, I went to a Baptist church where there was no trace of politics or differences. That was it, what do you call it? Sulfur. This one is socially aware and accepts queer people. All March they used “she” and “her” pronouns for God. And the church is the most beautiful old building, but a few months ago it burned down. We already had online services when this happened. I think they will rebuild themselves. At the moment, we are still online.

MRS. SHINE Sometimes I’ll take a nap. I’m a teacher at Williamsburg High School of Art and Technology, and I do this from home, so I used to take a nap every other day. The principal of our school is amazing. She is always working to keep our energy up. And she’s very excited about my career. She always says, “You are the art in the art and technology of Williamsburg”. And I love my students. They are so sweet. I’ll show up in a bow tie and it’s obvious I’m a fat old dyke, but they just say “This is Mrs. Flash.”

NO JACKET NECESSARY Sunday is a day of surrender for me. I really try not to look at e-mail or take pictures. I used to visit someone like my friend Jim or recently Sharon who has pulmonary fibrosis and has just moved from the Bronx to the East Village, so now she’s not too far from me. I met her in Provincetown in the 1980s, and she ended up getting me one of the best jobs I have ever had in my life, working at Spiritus, an ice cream parlor. I worked there for 12 years. I think about her a lot, and how important she has been in my career. If her home helper cannot come, she will call me and say, “Can you bring me some food?” I’ll give you a leather jacket. I tell him to keep the leather jacket on and bring him food.

WINE, ONLINE Happy hour has become a big part of my Sundays. It’s also online. Three to eight women get together, we talk and have a glass of wine. Sometimes I will show them pictures that I took. Or I will show the work of my students. This continues until about 8 am, and after that I’m pretty poop. I make sure the dishes are washed, and I hydrate my hands, tattoos on my forearms, feet, neck and face. Sunday is a school night, so I’m in bed at 9:30 or 10 a.m. I have to be ready on Monday for the young people.

Readers of the Sunday Routine can follow Lola Flash on Instagram @ flash9 or Twitter @lolaflashphoto.


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