by Jean Roberta

Since it’s my turn to post here today, I would just like to note the sad passing of an amazing photographer, Honey Lee Cottrell, on September 21, at the too-young age of 69.

Honey Lee, Tee Corinne (who is already gone) and JEB (Joan Biren), were a kind of Holy Trinity of photographers and visual artists who created the look of lesbian visual representation from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Anyone who has seen a lesbian sex manual or erotic magazine (particularly On Our Backs) from that era has seen their work.

Words can’t convey how these three pioneers managed to bring the previously-unspeakable eroticism of women with women into visual form. Those of us who lived far away from any queer mecca (San Francisco, parts of New York) were given hope by these women’s artwork to believe that nirvana might actually exist somewhere, or that it was coming into being.

In the 1980s, here in a government town on the Canadian prairie, I worked for minimum wage in a collectively-run “alternative” bookstore. (It was founded by a husband and wife who loved science fiction.) I was proud of the small lesbian section that featured books that managed to sneak across the border from Bookpeople (a major distributor in California), despite the efforts of Canada Customs to stop all “obscene” material from entering Canada from elsewhere. Every time I saw the latest issue of On Our Backs, carefully packed at the bottom of a box by someone who knew the score, I was thrilled. Honey Lee Cottrell’s unusual erotic subjects smiled back at me as if to say that eventually, we would all have our place in the sun.

I hope she is now in a place as beautiful as she ever imagined.