Tadej Žnidarčič was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he received a university degree in physics. He is a graduate of the International Center of Photography in New York City, where he was the recipient of the George and Joyce Moss Scholarship for Photojournalism in 2007. In addition to being a photographer, Žnidarčič is also a writer and videographer.
Žnidarčič received a 2007–2008 Global Fund for Children/International Center of Photography Fellowship, which took him to Bangladesh, India, and Romania to document the impact of local nonprofits on their communities. He has photographed polio victims in Nigeria, street children in Kenya, lead poisoning in camps for internally displaced people in Kosovo, and schools on boats in Bangladesh. He has documented the Nollywood film industry in Nigeria and worked with nonprofit organizations in health and education.
A contributing photographer for Redux Pictures, he has published in magazines, newspapers, and various publications in Africa, Europe, and the United States. In 2009, PDNedu ran a feature story on Žnidarčič, calling him “one to watch.” His work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
Homosexuality is not only stigmatized, but also illegal in Uganda. Publicly identifying as gay or being perceived as such can result in the loss of a job, arrest, harassment, blackmail, threats, and beatings. Antigay sentiment is widespread and many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people hide their identity.
In October 2009, the Antihomosexuality Bill was introduced in the Ugandan parliament. Under the guise of protecting family values, it proposes life imprisonment for anyone engaged in homosexual activities and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” “Aggravated homosexuality” includes people who have gay sex more than once, homosexual activity by an adult with a person under 18 years old, or homosexual activity initiated by someone who is HIV positive. The bill also prohibits any production and dissemination of information related to homosexuality and prescribes jail time for anyone (including friends, parents, doctors, and priests) who fails to report homosexual activity to the authorities.
The bill was met with opposition from human rights groups, Western governments, and some religious leaders. Even Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the bill, which remains sidelined in parliament and will probably not pass in its original form. Still, the bill has already encouraged increasing antigay behavior in an openly homophobic society that sees itself as setting an example for how the rest of the world should deal with homosexuality.
Reporting on the Antihomosexuality Bill in Ugandan and international media has largely focused on the creation, context, and consequences of the bill. Some LGBT activists working in Kampala were interviewed about their stories of struggle. Some agreed to be identified since they had already been outed in the Ugandan media, but the vast majority of people in the gay community do not want to be identified, and their stories remain untold.
This project features LGBT people in Uganda, both activists and nonactivists, and presents their views on the proposed bill and homosexuality in African society, their personal stories of struggle against stigmatization and threats, and their hopes for the future. All of the people I spoke with wanted to remain anonymous. My challenge was to find a way to portray these men and women without compromising their safety, particularly since the Internet allows images and information to circulate freely and without control. After discussing the project with several activists and trying a number of options, I chose to photograph portraits of their backs. I wanted their posture and clothing to reveal their individuality, while the walls against which they were photographed symbolize the obstacles they face and their exclusion from society.
—Tadej Žnidarčič, November 2011