Bear and Aphra
In May 1990, On Our Backs featured Jessica Tanzer’s photographs portraying the tender connection of two young London dykes, Bear and Aphra. Another of Tanzer’s photographs of the pair had appeared in September 1989. Tanzer photographed these models three separate times, and, “in each one Aphra had another piercing, which is how I told the shoots apart.”
The items in this case reveal aspects of how an On Our Backs story came into being: a proof sheet from one of Tanzer's sessions with the models, some of the frames she decided to print in the dark room, and how the story finally looked in the magazine.
Lulu Belliveau, a contributor to On Our Backs’ artistic direction as assistant to Jill Posener and then photo editor from 1988-1991, had an important influence on this photo story. As soon as she met Londonites Bear and Aphra, Belliveau arranged to get them into the studio with Tanzer. Belliveau was the creative director at many photo shoots, positioning props and models and inspiring the process. She often ended up in a few of the frames. Tanzer recalls, “Lulu had a natural eye for style and models. Without Lulu, so much of this wouldn’t exist.”
Bear and Aphra influenced Belliveau too. After meeting them and Del laGrace Volcano, she visited London when she needed to revitalize after being one of the key organizers for the ACT UP San Francisco events around the Sixth International AIDS conference in June 1990. She moved to London in 1993.
When Tanzer had a show at the Art Lick Gallery in 1991, Rachel Pepper wrote in the Bay Area Reporter:
The photography of Jessica Tanzer also helps fill a need for something we’ve been hungering for. The world of lesbian sexual photography is an ever changing dimension, and contemporary pioneers like Della Grace [Del laGrace Volcano] and Jill Posener have done much to bring a modern erotic aesthetic to the form. But there is still much room for others in the field. Happily, Jessica Tanzer is one such woman taking aim to do just that.
Pepper added that the images of Bear and Aphra were “by far some of the best shots I had ever seen in the magazine, which regularly features the work of up and coming dyke photographers.”
 Pepper, Rachel. “Fresh, Fierce and Feisty.” Bay Area Reporter, Volume 21, Number 39, page 12. 26 September 1991. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=BAR19910926.1.12&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1. ↩