As a photographer and visual storyteller, he realised that he needed to find a compromise that everyone would be comfortable with, so drew for a camera that he wasn’t expecting to need. “I was photographing at the time with a large format polaroid camera, and I said: ‘Hey, why don’t we use this – I’ll take the photograph in the way you want, I give you the polaroid and, if you’re comfortable with it you can give it back to me,’” he explains. They agreed, Hammond took the photograph, and after waiting a minute or two for it to develop they handed it back to him.
This would become Hammond's way of photographing others in comparable positions. From then until 2019, he has travelled across the world to several countries – from Cameroon to Malaysia, via Russia – where there are laws criminalising the activity or existence of LGBTQI+ people. In each situation, he would repeat the same process – take someone's picture, show it to them and ask if he could keep the final result. “It started this process, which became very collaborative from a safeguarding point of view,” he says. “Folks weren’t going to contribute to this story if they thought it was going to put them in danger."
A number of the polaroid portraits have been collected and presented in Hammond's new photobook, Where Love Is Illegal. Invited into the homes of LGBTQI+ people, who often had to hide and bury their identities, Hammond encouraged them to dress and express themselves how they wanted, before giving them the final say on whether they wanted to show the world.
The pictures are intimate, tender and beautiful, but filled with tension. Behind each image is the knowledge that so many people and communities live in fear of being fully able to express themselves, lest they could face imprisonment – or, in extreme cases, the death penalty. However, the images also speak to the resilience of LGBTQ+ communities all over the world, no matter how visible they might be. “Wherever you go, there’s queer folks,” Hammond says. “It doesn’t matter how much you deny it, and as much as there are folks who try to stomp out this scourge of homosexuality – gay folks and queer folks around the world persevere.”