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On the web: queerography.org

Pick up a copy: "Queerography: Intimate Expressions of Queer Culture," by Boulder resident Sway, is a photo collection of queer people in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok; $30 at queerography.org and amazon.com, or at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder.

Sway found beauty on the streets of Tokyo. Behind closed doors in kinky sex hotels. Backstage at sensual shows, in the sparkling sequins and eye shadow at drag clubs, at colorful pride parades, and gay nightclubs across Hong Kong and Bangkok.

The Boulder woman caught intimate slivers of those scenes on her camera — a glimpse into a world typically far removed from mainstream bookstores. And she put it together in an edgy photo book called "Queerography: Intimate Expressions of Queer Culture."

Sway — that's short for Sarah Way — identifies herself as a queer femme photographer, self-taught and collaborative. She says she works closely alongside her subjects to help them express a piece of their authentic identity, not fit a vision in her own mind. The goal: photos that expose the subject's vulnerability, thereby granting viewers the freedom to explore their own uniqueness, too.

To Sway, someone is beautiful when he or she is honorable and real.

"It runs very deeply within a person's soul," she says. "When who they are on the inside shines through on the outside, that's what makes them so beautiful."

And members of the queer community, especially in traditional Eastern countries deeply rooted in family honor and tradition, have long missed a platform to present their own inner expressions of authenticity, Sway says.

She hopes her photos can be that stage.

An image from "Queerography," a new photo book by Boulder photographer Sway.
An image from "Queerography," a new photo book by Boulder photographer Sway. (Sway Photography / Courtesy photo)

This unconventional career path, capturing unconventional subjects, started about a decade ago on a backpacking tour through Europe.

"It was the one form that allowed me to express myself, my calling," she says. "When I came back, I started photographing everything I knew and everything around me, which happened to be guys dressed up as women, girls making out with other girls — you photograph what you know, and I didn't realize I lived in this unique bubble where your gender and sexuality was never questioned."

Next month, Sway will set off on a book tour, starting in Arizona, where she grew up, and returning to Boulder late April, when she plans on conducting a talk, gallery show and book signing, as well as organizing queer performances by local artists.

On tour, she's keeping her eyes — and camera lens — open for her next photo collection: images of female sexual empowerment. She expects Boulder women to hold an important space in that book.

"The more I traveled and reached out to like-minded people, I found people who reminded me of my friends, regardless of our global boundaries and cultural differences," she says. "We are all one giant global community with the same challenges, heartaches, goals and dreams. That's all of humanity, really."

Sway hopes the images connect with readers, regardless of their sexual identity and beyond politics, tapping into concepts of freedom, exploration and everyone's unique spirit.

"We are all unique in our own way," Sway says. "We are all queer."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359, heckela@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/AimeeMay.