Google Doodle celebrates non-binary French surrealist photographer Claude Cahun
Monday’s Google Doodle (25 October) celebrates non-binary French surrealist photographer Claude Cahun, on what would have been their 127th birthday.
Cahun was born in 1894 in Nantes, France, into a creative, Jewish family. In 1909, they met Marcel Moore, who would become their life-long romantic and creative partner.
The pair moved to Paris, and in 1919, they both discarded their birth names in favour of the gender-neutral chosen names Claude and Marcel, and Cahun also shaved their head in an effort to reject societal expectations.
In their autobiography Disavowals, Cahun wrote: “Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neutral is the only gender that always suits me.”
Cahun became famous in Paris’ bohemian, surrealist circles for their theatrical self-portraits that played with gender expression and gender stereotypes, and brushed shoulders with creatives like André Breton and Salvador Dalí.
Claude Cahun became part of the anti-Nazi resistance on the Channel Island of Jersey
Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore eventually settled on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1937, as World War II was looming.
The couple began producing anti-Nazi propaganda, including flyers that they slipped into the pockets of German soldiers when the island was invaded in 1940.
Historian Jeffrey H Jackson once wrote that for Cahun and Moore, “fighting the German occupation of Jersey was the culmination of lifelong patterns of resistance, which had always borne a political edge in the cause of freedom as they carved out their own rebellious way of living in the world together”. He added: “For them, the political was always deeply personal.”
The couple were discovered in 1944 and sentenced to death by the Nazis, but they escaped their sentence when Jersey was liberated in 1945. Cahun and Moore stayed together until Cahun’s death in 1954, when they were 60 years old.
In its description of the Google Doodle, Google said: “In addition to increasing focus on their pioneering work in the surrealist movement and breaking down gender barriers in the photographic arts, Cahun’s work has influenced gender-bending celebrities, the modern LGBT+ community, and conversations on identity and expression to this day. Happy birthday, Claude Cahun!”