Claiming our past – Celebrating our present – Creating our future 

The LGBT+ History Month 2023 #BehindTheLens celebrates LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to cinema and film from behind the lens. Directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, producers, animators, costume designers, special effects, make-up artists, lighting directors, musicians, choreographers and beyond. Here, have selected four queer icons who perfectly encapsulate the importance and relevance of the theme.


Lindsay Cooper  

Lindsay Cooper digital archive, #8578. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. 

Lindsay Cooper (3 March 1951-18 September 2013) was an English bassoon and oboe player and composer. Best known for her work with the band Henry Cow, she was also a member of Comus, National Health, News from Babel and David Thomas and the Pedestrians. She collaborated with a number of musicians, including Chris Cutler and Sally Potter, and co-founded the Feminist Improvising Group. She wrote scores for film and TV and a song cycle Oh Moscow which was performed live around the world in 1987. She also recorded a number of solo albums, including Rags (1980), The Gold Diggers (1983), and Music For Other Occasions (1986). 

Cooper was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1970s, but did not disclose it to the musical community until the late 1990s when her illness prevented her from performing live. In September 2013 at the age of 62, Cooper died from the illness.  

Cooper’s best-known work is her 1987 song cycle Oh Moscow. It was another collaboration with Sally Potter, with Cooper composing the music and Potter the song texts. It premiered at the Zurich Jazz Festival that year and was subsequently performed in Europe, North America, and Moscow. The songs dealt with issues facing a divided Europe during the Cold War. Ironically, the Berlin Wall came down 39 days after the work was first performed.   

Right up to the end of her life, Cooper remained a highly respected and influential figure in the musical world. Her works are regularly performed and even taught throughout the world.  

Cooper also collaborated on works by Mike Oldfield; Egg; Henry Cow; Slapp Happy/Henry Cow; Comus; Steve Hillage; Hatfield and the North; Art Bears; Feminist Improvising Group; Mike Westbrook; Chris Cutler, Bill Gilonis, Tim Hodgkinson and Robert Wyatt; News from Babel; David Thomas and the Pedestrians; Maggie Nicols and Joëlle Léandre; Catherine Jauniaux and Tim Hodgkinson; Dagmar Krause; Anthony Phillips and Harry Williamson; John Wolf Brennan; David Motion and Sally Potter; Trio Trabant a Roma; Tim Hodgkinson; Charles Gray; Rova Saxophone Quartet; the Orckestra; Fred Frith, Lars Hollmer and Gianni Gebbia.  


Ismail Merchant 

Ismail Merchant born Ismail Noor Muhammad Abdul Rahman (25 December 1936-25 May 2005) was an Indian film producer, director, and screenwriter. He worked for many years in collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions which included Director (and Merchant’s long-time professional and domestic partner) James Ivory as well as screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  

Born in Bombay (Mumbai), Merchant grew up bilingual in Gujarati and Urdu, and learned Arabic and English at school. When he was 11, he and his family were caught up in the 1947 partition of India. His father was the President of the Muslim League and refused to move to Pakistan. Merchant later said that he carried memories of “butchery and riots” into adulthood. As a child at the age of 9, Merchant delivered a speech about partition at a political rally in front of a crowd of 10,000. At age 13, he developed a close friendship with actress Nimmi, who introduced him to studios in Bombay (the centre of Hindi film industry). It was she who inspired his ambitious rise to stardom.  

Merchant studied at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and received a BA degree from the University of Bombay. It was here he developed a love for movies. While in New York, he gave up his family name of Abdul Rehman for Merchant. He supported himself by working as a messenger for the UN in New York and used this opportunity to persuade Indian delegates to fund his film projects. Immersed in a new world of art and culture, it was here that Merchant discovered the films of Bengali director Satyajit Ray, as well as those of European artists such as Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini. In 1961, Merchant made a short film, The Creation of Woman. It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and received an Academy Award nomination.  

Merchant met American movie director James Ivory at a screening in New York of Ivory’s documentary The Sword and the Flute in 1959. In May 1961, Merchant and Ivory formed the film production company Merchant Ivory Productions. Their professional and romantic partnership lasted 44 years, from 1961 until Merchant’s death in 2005. The Guinness Book of World Records says theirs was the longest partnership in independent cinema history.  

In 2002 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in the Republic of India. He was also a recipient of The International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence. 

Merchant died in Westminster, England aged 68, following surgery for abdominalulcers. He was buried in Bada Qabrastan Mumbai in Marine Lines, Mumbai, India on 28 May 2005, in keeping with his wish to be buried with his ancestors. 


Tony Richardson 

Tony Richardson by Camera Press: London: UK bromide press print, May 1938 

© National Portrait Gallery, London 

Cecil Antonio “Tony” Richardson (5 June 1928-14 November 1991) was an English theatre and film director and producer whose career spanned five decades. In 1964, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film Tom Jones. 

Part of the British “New Wave” of directors, he was involved in the formation of the English Stage Company, along with his close friend George Goetschius and George Devine. He directed John Osborne‘s play Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre, and in the same period he directed Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then in 1957, he directed Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in Osborne’s next play The Entertainer, again for the Royal Court. 

In 1959, Richardson co-founded Woodfall Film Productions with John Osborne and producer Harry Saltzman, and, as Woodfall’s debut, directed the film version of Look Back in Anger (1959), his first feature film. The Entertainer (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961), and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962), based on the novel by Alan Sillitoe, also were produced there. 

Many of Richardson’s films, such as A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, were part of the acclaimed kitchen sink realism movement popular in Britain at the time, and several of his films continue to be held as cornerstones of the movement.  

In 1964, Richardson received two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Picture) for Tom Jones (1963) based on the novel by Henry Fielding 

Among the stars that Richardson directed were Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Rob Lowe, Milton Berle, Trevor Howard, David Hemmings, Nicol Williamson, Tom Courtenay, Lynn Redgrave, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Burton, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger, Katharine Hepburn, Seth Green, Tommy Lee Jones and Judi Dench. His musical composers included Antoine Duhamel, John Addison and Shel Silverstein. His screenwriters were Jean Genet, Christopher Isherwood, Terry Southern, Marguerite Duras, Edward Bond (adapting Vladimir Nabokov) and Edward Albee 

Richardson made four more major films before his death. His last, Blue Sky (1994), was not released for nearly three years after he died.  

Richardson was bisexual but never acknowledged it publicly until after he contracted HIV. He died of complications from AIDS on 14 November 1991 at the age of 63. He directed works up to 1984 in London, New York and across the world. Please visit Wikipedia for a full list of his theatre works. 



SOPHIE, Photo by Renata Raksha 

SOPHIE Xeon (17 September 1986-30 January 2021), known as SOPHIE, was a Scottish music producer, songwriter, and DJ. Known for a brash and experimental take on pop music that helped pioneer the 2010s hyperpop microgenre, SOPHIE worked closely with artists from the PC Music label, including A.G. Cook and GFOTY, and produced for acts such as Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, Madonna, Let’s Eat Grandma, and Namie Amuro 

SOPHIE’s only studio album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, made history when nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album, and SOPHIE became the first openly transgender artist to be nominated in this category and one of the three first openly transgender women to be nominated for a Grammy.   

The New York Times described SOPHIE’s work as “giddy fun, but […] also an invitation to consider pop’s pleasures, structures and gender expectations, and pop’s commercial status as both a consumer item and an emotional catalyst.”   

At around 4am on 30 January 2021, at the age of 34, SOPHIE died at Attikon University Hospital in Athens. SOPHIE had been taken to the hospital after accidentally falling three storeys (approximately 42 feet or 13 metres) from the rooftop of a building while attempting to take a picture of the full moon. The Fader eulogized SOPHIE as a “pioneering Scottish artist whose vibrant electronic productions expanded modern pop music’s scope,” while Pitchfork credited SOPHIE’s influential work with “mould[ing] electronic music into bracingly original avant-garde pop“. 

Artists including Rihanna, Sam Smith, Vince Staples, Charli XCX, A. G. Cook, and Christine and the Queens expressed their condolences.  

On 4 June 2021, SOPHIE’s brother announced plans to release some of SOPHIE’s unreleased work. On 16 June, the International Astronomical Union announced that the minor planet 1980 RE1 was given the permanent name SOPHIExeon. 


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