Meet the Rainbow Girls

Being black and gay in many South African townships is to be ostracized, to live life hiding your true identity. One photographer shares the lives of the lesbians who refuse to back down in the face of constant risk.

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When Amsterdam-based photographer Julia Gunther found out that her friend Phillipa in Cape Town had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Gunther decided to photograph her fight against the illness. The project became the start of the ongoing series, "Proud Women of Africa," which portrays the lives of women living and working in countries around the continent.

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Moved by the plight of the black gay community in South African townships, where lesbians are forced to hide their sexuality and often face physical violence when they don't—Gunther embarked on a new segment of the series. "These women are subjected to unimaginable horrors," Gunther says, "but they face each new day with bravery and a refusal to back down."

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Calling this photo installment "Rainbow Girls," Gunther offers a glimpse into the both the terrifying and uplifting experiences of these women who persist against constant bigotry and threats. "It's truly humbling," Gunther says, "that these women trusted me enough to allow me into a part of their lives that, in most cases, they've kept hidden."

Now, get a closer look at the Rainbow Girls.

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To learn more about the women in Gunther's series, see

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