Lyte ImaginAri has a gift for capturing the moment. She finds herself most fulfilled in shooting Atlanta’s queer nightlife scenes. Her shots, full of emotion and authenticity, have gained traction around the community as of late.
“When [shots] come out looking the way they do and you see it as amazing, that’s just how amazing I felt in the moment,” she said of her photography.
Lyte moved to Atlanta from small town North Carolina only three years ago, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. She came from a traditional religious background. Aside from the Bible, the only other thing her parents exposed her to was comic books, which were still given as a religious metaphor at times. She said her parents “liked to compare Captain America to Jesus a lot.”
“How I grew up, I didn’t really understand who I was, I didn’t understand anything that I was feeling. I wasn’t allowed to experience anybody else in the world,” she said. “Moving here was like the beginning of everything for me.”
Upon moving to Atlanta, Lyte was introduced to ideas about gender expression she had previously been taught to see as black and white. Before moving, the only experiences she had seen as close to her own were on YouTube, which felt far away. Being a trans woman did not feel like a possibility, much less her reality. Although not armed with the vocabulary and knowledge to be able to address her gender identity, Lyte knew she did not fall into the box of cisnormativity from a young age. By the age of 10, she was already coming to terms with her fate with God and thinking she would take the secrets of her queerness to the grave.
“I knew I was different, but I can’t be different here, so I’ll just have to deal with it,” she said. “I gave up on so many things from such a young age thinking I would not be able to live the life I wanted to live, so I really focused on understanding what other people are experiencing.”
During the pandemic, Lyte picked up photography as a way to kill time between working three jobs back in North Carolina. Once she moved to Atlanta, however, it became a social experiment to her. Being a naturally shy person, Lyte was not sure how she would make friends, but she did know that people loved having their pictures taken.
Taking pictures made it easier to engage with people. First, she just started taking pictures on a phone because the camera felt intimidating, but people were loving the phone shots so much and she was meeting so many cool people that bringing the camera just felt right. Many people she has met through photography have built the community of love that has enriched Lyte’s life and spirit. Lyte’s photography is a gift for the community that has given her her own light.
“I am constantly amazed by the world around me and the people around me,” she said when speaking on the gratitude that comes with her photography and why she found success. “This is my community and the life I get to live. I felt like I had to immerse myself in this place with something I could give back to people.”
Her photography is a selfless service. Much of her inspiration comes from the gratitude and love for the queer community she has found. Capturing those feelings is how she likes to pay them forward. Lyte says she “got lucky” in finding the spaces and people that have empowered her to be her most authentic self, because for a long time it did not feel attainable.
“I want other people to see my work, get the story and go experience it too,” she said. “It’s here, and it’s just as cunt as it looks!”
Keep up with Lyte ImaginAri’s photography on Instagram @yeahitslyte.