Photography exhibition about sexuality and religion opens in Auckland church

A photographic exhibition that explores sexuality and religion has opened in a deconsecrated Auckland church. 

Inferno explores the difficulties Gui Taccettii faced growing up as a gay man in Brazil. 

Growing up in Brazil where the Catholic Church is a powerful force, Taccettii didn't have it easy.

"I didn't think I was crazy, I just thought there was something wrong with me," he told Newshub.

It was a challenge, especially for someone who didn't fit the mold. 

"I basically grew up being exposed to this kind of set of values, in this case religious values, which really made me feel like I didn't belong."

Taccettii's latest exhibition is Inferno. It represents the anxiety and mental health issues that many experience when their sexuality isn't accepted by society or the Church. 

"I've experienced many instance of panic attacks and that was related to being in a public space where I had the fear of being exposed because I felt like I was hiding," he said.

That's backed up by research out last month that found gay, lesbian and bisexual Kiwis are more than twice as likely to experience depression anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

"That's 100 percent what we see at Rainbow Youth and what we know from other research, that queer and gender-diverse people are so overrepresented in negative statistics," said support manager Victoria Trow.

The study also found such issues persist far past the coming out stage.

"A lot of insidious everyday micro-aggressions and discriminations fly under the radar and really affect mental health for the entirely of a person's life," said Trow.

It took Taccettii three months to create the exhibition. He built each of his 14 sets from scratch, staged the models and photographed them. He sees the work as a form of therapy, turning something negative into something creative. 

"That gives you power over it. You start to own the issue before it was like the issue was owning me. 

He hopes the work will inspire conversations. 

"We can create awareness about this, about how we can make the support network a bit stronger for everybody and hopefully reduce the problem."

Creating something beautiful and turning darkness into light.

Inferno runs at Auckland's Hopetoun Alpha until Sunday.