Geen Resultaten Gevonden
De pagina die u zocht kon niet gevonden worden. Probeer uw zoekopdracht te verfijnen of gebruik de bovenstaande navigatie om deze post te vinden.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Meg Allen
In her series ‘Butch’, photographer Meg Allen shows a variety of women who fall under the category of more masculine than feminine. Over the years people have been given different names to lesbians, and being butch is yet another flavor of women. Another flavor of lesbian, which Allen captures in a very intense and fierce image. Her women are beautiful, strong and aren’t afraid to show their true colors. Honest, might be another way of putting it.
What’s in a name?
Nothing really. The series was something I almost didn’t want to define. It isn’t a stereotypical thing and it isn’t just about short hair, or swagger, or a tomboy. For me butch means ‘on the masculine side’. That’s it really. Nothing more and nothing less. Just another categorization that can share definition with any other term within the umbrella of masculinity. It’s what gender ends up being when you try to define it; an exaggerated version of itself.
You like to let your pictures speak for themselves?
Exactly. I’m still exploring who I am as a photographer and an artist. This series is a chance to work within the queer community in a different way. And honestly, in the beginning it was just me, practicing my photography. Because I wanted to do portraits for professionals, I started asking my friends if they could sit for me. Yet the more people I photographed, the more I realized that I was capturing something I hadn’t seen before in art galleries or magazines. I put them up on my wall starting with 3 photographs, then 10, then 15. And all of a sudden I wanted to fill the whole room. Just to see what it felt like to look at a bunch of people who looked like me. Putting them together so concentrated, made me want to show the uniqueness of butch women in a way that glamorizes them in their natural habitat. The women aren’t mainstream yet their life could be anybody’s.
Is gender a fashionable thing?
I think people do wear gender like they wear fashion. For the most part everybody is somewhere in between both of those things. When you for example dress up for the opera or the ballet, you become this sophisticated, cultured, wealthy seeming thing. And that’s not just who you are, but it’s who you are in that moment. It’s so frivolous yet so important because people dress up every day. Some people say they don’t care but that’s also a statement. It’s part of their philosophy. I never wanted to wear dresses and that was a choice because I didn’t felt like I was a person who wears dresses. I was more adventurous. I felt handsome rather than pretty and strong versus coy. When you dress yourself, you’re making a statement. So I think it lies somewhere in there, constantly shifting and fluid.
Is it a sign of the times? That gender is getting more fluid?
Absolutely! I think it has been influenced by a lot of equality movements between the sexes and even between races. There is no hierarchy of human, where women are second rate to men. But ask anybody and they will give you their own definition of what it means to be male vs. female. Gender is such a complex thing. On one hand you have a description of your sex, your genitals, but attributes of masculine and feminine are something different. Gender becomes the more complicated version of whether you are man or woman. Americans have this exaggerated form of male and female. The men are hyper-masculine, rugged, handsome, strong and aren’t encouraged to cry. Yet in many parts of Europe, men are allowed to be who they are, rather than forced in a stereotype of what a man should be. I have a friend who is from Denmark and she was saying that they don’t have a word for butch, because gender isn’t strictly masculine males and feminine female. I thought that was both interesting and difficult to imagine. That there is no need to have this strict definition because gender actually isn’t polarized. I need to add that I’ve never been there, so I have to take her word for it.
You take photographs of your friends. You have a lot of friends…
Well, it’s a big community here. I would say the first 30 people are definitely friends and people I’ve known over the years. Then when I had a show at the Lexington club in San Francisco, the series really sort of took off and a lot of people contacted me to be part of the project. There’s a big scene in San Francisco and the community here is huge. You really have to come over, it will blow your mind.
How does it feel to be gay in San Francisco?
Being gay in San Francisco hasn’t been a big deal since the 80’s, we’re super lucky to live in such a mecca. The straight people aren’t as phased by sexuality in San Francisco. People in San Francisco are more liberal about just about everything. As a country, we’re still behind on gay marriage but it’s going to the Supreme Court and they are about to make a ruling for it to be federally recognized across the US. So as far as the gay movement is concerned federally, things are changing quite a bit. That said, I feel very lucky to be born a gay person in a straight privileged world. I feel it gives us license to look differently at tradition and the way society wants you to be. It allows us to reinvent ourselves constantly, because there is no set path that we have to follow. Do we decide to marry? Do we duck the trends of fashion so we can feel more who we are and how we want to be seen in the world? I think most straight people don’t have that luxury. They are sort of guided along, ushered in to well-worn and accepted paths. Later on in life they might be disappointed because they didn’t realize there was so much more to choose from. Being gay pushes you out of certain traditions and suddenly reveals that the world is actually bigger than your own community’s traditions and is this crazy amazing place to explore. There are so many traditions that you can adopt from. So many other cultures and countries that can make you happy. When you are gay you are not just trudging along blindly, following the person in front of you, just because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You invent yourself by making your own choices.
You’re still exploring who you are as a photographer. Is there a change you’re going to specialize in queer subjects?
The fact that I’m gay and very alternative, gender wise will always influence my work. I won’t necessarily specialize in it but it will always be present in my work. I do love this theme though, and I love to make queer culture visible. One of the most amazing things people told me after seeing my ‘Butch’ series, was this straight guy who said he loved watching my pictures, because he never had the chance to really look. He always felt uncomfortable about staring at people who looked different and this gave him the opportunity to just stare and take it all in. That’s what I love most about art. It has the capacity to take you on this journey and tell you a story about something you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. You’re able to loose yourself, as you’re looking at these other people, identifying with them and recognizing differences. There is this universal feeling of the human condition and that’s the part that I aim for; combining differences with familiarity, and making it not such a rigid rectilinear definition.
You also consider it a time document.
A lot of people responded to these portraits, a lot of people felt seen and it’s a record in time about butch women feeling safe enough to do this. To let people look at them. There used to be a lot of violence against butch women, and the gay community in general, in the past and actually still to this day. Butches would get harassed a lot and therefor didn’t want any attention put on them. They didn’t want to be seen and just tried to blend into the world of masculinity and live their lives. The first people I asked to sit for me were really unsure but after they saw what I was doing, they could see that it was bigger than themselves. That I would make them feel comfortable and illuminate them in the proper light. I think it was the right time to make this series.
This project has gotten a lot of attention, what’s next?
My next project is shooting portraits of transgender FTMs. Interesting thing is, that some people I’ve shot for ‘Butch’, also want to sit for this next one. I love that. It means they define themselves in multiple ways. Needless to say it’s going to be a completely different type of project and portraits, but I like the multiple identity factor. Definitions and stereotypes lose their power when you really try to nail it down so I aim to nuance my photographs. You can see that butch is not only about masculinity. It’s not because you are butch that you can’t be soft or fashionable.
I read somewhere that you want to make a book when you are at 117 portraits. What’s with the number?
I was very influenced by Annie Leibovitz as a young photographer. She did a lot of photographs for Vanity Fair and I love the way that is able to capture people. I admire that she could almost get into somebodies soul and bring it out in a picture. That’s an amazing thing to do. I think that’s also what I like about being a photographer. I’m not very good at bullshitting. Going to a bar and chitchatting just isn’t my thing. I’m not funny, so that doesn’t help either. Even on the first casual introduction I get right into it and ask people what their life is all about, what they love and what bothers them. Sometimes that’s awkward when you are meeting someone for the first time. A bit too intense maybe, but when you are photographing somebody and they are willing to open themselves up to that, you sort of get to go on this journey together and go deeper than any other random contact. You get intimate in this very artistic way. You’re both human and into this together. Leibovitz did that in her pictures and she’s been a huge influence to me. The fact that she was able to go in and really look at somebodies personality, bringing it out in a way that you have the feeling you know the person on the photograph. She has a book called ‘Women’ and I love the fact that she spent an entire book on just women. Her book is about all kinds of women; working-class, high profile, you name it. And…it contains 117 portraits.
How important is it for you to make this book?
Much more important than I thought it would be. Maybe I helped making a historical record of what the gay movement was doing around this time. I think that’s important to put in a book. To capture gay history in California about butch women at this time.
De pagina die u zocht kon niet gevonden worden. Probeer uw zoekopdracht te verfijnen of gebruik de bovenstaande navigatie om deze post te vinden.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Beverli Alford
‘Well, these aren’t your typical flannel, mullet, boot wearing butches. This new art book pushes the Butch-definition beyond its seams. Packed with fashion forward pictures that are vivid, dramatic and provocative. These gender- bending bois will make your heart skip a beat. It is a feast for the eyes and the coffee table. You will fall in love and never again judge a butch by her cover.’ Kanithea Powell, Author.
Tell me about that gorgeous book of yours!
I wanted to do something that would get people talking about people like me. Sometimes I wear lipstick and make-up and I’m not as masculine as some women would like me to be. But I am who I am and I’m tired of people saying that I’m not butch enough, I’m not this or that enough. So I decided to create something that shows people that it’s ok to be exactly the way you are. Whatever that is. To get out of that box because I’m so tired of boxes.
You have a problem with the typical butch identity.
What’s typical? I wouldn’t say I have a problem with it. I would say that people love to put others in boxes. Whether it’s about the color of your skin or your sexual preferences. And if you don’t fit inside that little box, they get very uncomfortable and they don’t know what to do. This book forces you to remove the blinders and see how things have changed.
Isn’t the word ‘Butch’ also a box?
When you look at the book, it pushes what that definition means. This book is a popped collar, high fashion buffet of beautiful women who redefine the term. It gets you to rethink the word as a whole.
How did people react?
The reactions have been great. We are in over 16 countries right now. One person who bought the book actually slept with it for four days. It’s been very well received and we’ve been up for a few awards so that’s pretty awesome. People have embraced the work and I’m grateful for that.
And where did you find your models?
A lot of them I worked with in the past. I do a lot of filming for professional photographers and for fashion shows. I was at my friend’s apartment one saturday and we got on the phone and called the models we knew and got them down to DC to film. Let me tell you: it has been great! It’s good to know beautiful people.
You started Qwest Films? It’s television, movies, books,.. You don’t want to stick to one thing. I’m an artist and I don’t like being confined. Whatever I feel I want to create, I create. Whether it’s a show, a film, a book or a theatrical play. Whatever I feel inspired to do, I just do it. I created the company to be able to do all these sorts of things. It’s important to be open. When you think about a major player like a Sony or a Paramount, or what have you. They’re in every single bit of entertainment business. They’re in distribution, publishing, TV, they’re in everything. So… I like to think of myself as a big company.
And why do you want to do these things? Do you have a mission statement to change the world? Make things different?
I would like to show the world that we are more alike then we are different. We’re all the same. We’re all just humans being. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, whatever that is, we all love, we all hurt, we all get angry and feel pain. So, I want people to see our humanity versus just passing judgment.
How do you succeed in showing that without the ‘boxing’ that we talked about?
If you look at any of my films or the current work that I’m doing right now, it’s all about life experiences and how we handle/deal with them. Stripping away the stereotypes. Tearing down the walls of homophobia and all that crazy stuff that’s going on out there. I just want to do my part.
Do you have the feeling you can make some change?
Of course! I have a lot of straight people buying my books and films. That tells me that there is a desire to learn and understand who we are. And with those small moves we can open eyes and get people to become more accepting of people who are not like them.
Your new film is completely different? Tell me all about it.
It’s about a woman who sees too much, and has to play a deadly game of survival against a backdrop of greed and revenge. There is a beautiful lesbian couple in the film. I love it! Everybody in the film is acting out of desperation. It’s amazing to see how far a person will go and the things they will do when they’re desperate. Those moments speak to your character. It’s an item that’s quite right now in America. How they deal with immigrants and all that jazz. I thought it would be kind of interesting to shed a little light on it.
Is it also an experienced story?
I know quite a few people who deal with the topic and hearing their stories inspired me to write the screenplay. Hopefully we can pull off an authentic film that people can relate to.
You don’t stay into the LGBT interest field?
No, I do what inspires me, whatever that is. I’m eclectic and I enjoy being open to ideas. As long as it tells an authentic story I’m in!
What do you want to accomplish, as a person?
I would love to own a television network station where I can put out 24 hours of entertainment, and I can pick and choose what ever I like. I think that would be my ultimate goal. I’m working on a television show right now and hopefully that will give me another leg into that dream. Fingers crossed!
De pagina die u zocht kon niet gevonden worden. Probeer uw zoekopdracht te verfijnen of gebruik de bovenstaande navigatie om deze post te vinden.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Rolla Selbak
Up till now she has made 2 feature films, a bunch of short films, a music video and 2 seasons of ‘Kiss her I’m famous’. The Spreecast ‘Grrls guide to filmmaking’ in which she interviews female movie directors, turned into a docu series and she’s currently writing a TV-piece. I guess we may call ourselves quite lucky that she found the time to talk to us, but most of all she left us highly inspired after our conversation about independency, feminism and religion.
Why is it important to be an independent filmmaker?
It’s very important to me because that’s mostly the only way a lot of people can work right now. I have a very independent spirit and the thought of actually being merged into the Hollywood system makes me cringe. The thing I hate about it is the fact that you give up all control and that someone else is telling you what to do. It makes good sense though, because essentially it’s someone else’s money so they want a minimum risk. Yet it really stifles creativity. Obviously it would be ideal to have your work in the television- or in Hollywood system without having to compromise, since a lot more people would be able to see your work.
So the internet is sufficient at the moment?
At this point, this is where my heart is. I think for filmmakers not to put their work online, if they’re independent like me, doesn’t make any sense. How is the audience going to know you? Who are you, where are you? You can’t just do only film festivals anymore and the internet is the most beautiful tool in the world. You can play. Everyone can see your work and hear your voice, I think it’s the best way to experiment. So before you send that script to Hollywood, to the show networks, it’s a great way for you to understand what your audience likes and doesn’t like. You can see which episodes have the highest rating, you see the comments, you see what people enjoyed. It’s fascinating. It’s a beautiful laboratory, one huge experiment.
You also have a Spreecast where you interview female filmmakers?
Yes, live stream interviews where the audience can log in and chat, ask questions. I did that on a monthly basis and I now turned that into a docu series, which you can currently see on-line. It’s me, going to the filmmakers’ homes, having a very casual chat with them in the space where they create. I thought that was a more intimate way to actually get to know the filmmaker. It was very important for me to showcase and celebrate female filmmakers, to counteract the voices that say that there are no female filmmakers or that there’s only a small percentage because females don’t like filmmaking. Or are not interested. They keep on making excuses on why the numbers are so low. This series is meant to inspire others, showing aspirant filmmakers that if she can do it, you can do it.
A happy feminist.
Feminist? Me? Nooo! Haha. I’m a very proud feminist card holder and I think any woman or man who is for the progress and equality of women in the world, is a feminist. Whether they like it or not!
Talking about feminism, a lot of your work handles the subjects of arrange marriage, homosexuality, Muslim-American subcultures. You’re quite a committed woman.
That is one way to say it, certainly. I try to tackle all those subjects in my films. Sometimes that’s a little ambitious, but I try to do it in a very nuanced way instead of being exploitative. I really did want to cover as much as I could when it comes to a female experience in the Muslim-American subculture. That does include the idea of arranged marriage – because that definitely still happens – and the idea of being closeted in that community. You’d be surprised to hear how many people actually connect with that story line. And then the other story line has to do with abuse, which lots of women go through. I wouldn’t say that that’s unique to the Muslim subculture but I’m certain that happens internationally. It was important for me to touch upon all those subjects.
These are also very personal subjects?
I grew up Muslim, so it’s indeed very personal. My family is Palestinian and I grew up in Abu Dhabi. We moved to the US but I definitely have that perspective as someone who is from the Muslim-American subculture. It’s just something that I feel wasn’t being presented in cinema, in film, in media. I basically made a film that I myself would have loved to see when I was younger. I felt like there was nothing out there that I could connect with. That understood my experience, that made me feel like I counted.
How did you grow up?
To be honest, it was very lonely. Even when I was always surrounded by family, which is very common in the Middle Eastern culture. Everything is always everyone’s business and privacy is not a privilege you get. Certainly not when you are living in your parent’s house, parents who loved me, by the way. A Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of family, caring and loving. But when you’re growing up as a woman, trying to find your place, your ideas, and you’re trying to see where you fit in all of this, it can end up being isolated and lonely.
So what did you do at that age? Being without any role models?
I lost myself in movies. That was my escape. I have a computer science background and the best part about being a geek was that I could build my own computer, put my own dvd drive in it so I could rent movies and watch them in my room. Where no one would know. Specifically the lesbian side of me loved Angelina Jolie movies like ‘Gia’ and ‘Girl Interrupted’. Also the movie ‘Fire’ (one of the first mainstream films in India to explicitly show homosexual relations. Ref.) was a big deal to me. So basically I got lost in movies. Which made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Because of that I thought film was the perfect way to tell such stories so other people wouldn’t feel alone.
But at one point you did come out of the closet.
Yes, and it was a nightmare. I got kicked out of the house after my parents first completely ignored my existence and then send me to a psychologist. When that didn’t work, they wanted me to undergo an eradication of my supposed hormone imbalance. I’m telling you this in a nutshell, yet the humiliation was unbearable.
Nevertheless you are calling your mother the bravest woman you know.
At one point she got diagnosed with heart failure and had only a few years to live. Since then she really turned around and decided that she wanted to open her heart and mind. Can you imagine that you come from a culture that keeps indoctrinating you, saying ‘gay is evil!’ Where they keep telling you that having a gay child is even worse than having a dead child. When you have that kind of legacy in your mind and culture since you where a baby, you have to overcome a lot to open up. I always say my mother is the bravest woman because I know she had to almost stretch both her heart ànd mind. It really took a lot from her to do that. But I flew her out to San Francisco where I was living at the time and she even met my partner. We had a great time. She passed away shortly after that. It ended in the most beautiful note and she is my hero. It was very important that we went through that.
What did that kind of indoctrination do to you?
I would say that the number one thing I suffered from was me, hating myself. Not even other people hating me. I was torturing myself essentially. I’d go to school and pretend everything was fine and then I’d go home and would literally be hitting myself. Slapping myself in my room. I just wanted it to go away. I hated myself so much. I tried by reading the Koran, try to slap the gay away. But of course it didn’t work. In the end you just have to get into it. Saying; ‘this is who I am. What can I do? I can’t do anything about it except be myself and be honest, that’s all’.
Are you still religious?
I used to be very religious. It was a part of me and I would pray every day. But now? No. I’m not religious at all, I’m agnostic. I believe all religions have beauty in them whether or not god exists the way we want him or her to exist. The only thing I know is that we don’t know anything. I think anyone who claims that they know something is bullshitting, because they don’t. Yet I do love the sentiments that religions have about how we should treat each other, how we should go through life. And I acknowledge that religion is sometimes necessary for some people to keep going. Without religion some people are lost, have no clue about why they are here or what we are doing. But the truth is that no one has a clue. We try to explain it in a way that makes us feel better and that makes us feel sane. Having sanity and the knowledge that it’s all going somewhere. Especially regarding an afterlife. No one knows!! How is someone ever going to know? All those basic questions asking; ‘does this all matter’, ‘what was it all for’, ‘why was I here’,.. It began and it ended. So the idea or notion of an afterlife is essentially saying ‘we matter’. Our lives matter. Well, if so; hurray! Great! But if not, whatever. Religion was essentially a worldwide way of law and civility. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t do this and don’t do that, be humble, share your money. But do you really need a book to tell you all this? And if the only reason you’re behaving like that is for you to be able to selfishly go to paradise, then we’re kind of screwed don’t you think?
Text JF. Pierets Photos Scott Pasfield
Scott Pasfield celebrates diversity in this first-ever photographic survey of gay men in America. Stereotypes are laid to rest and an intimate, honest picture of contemporary gay life is revealed through stunning personal portraits and narratives of 140 gay men in all 50 states. Joyful and somber, reflective and celebratory. A rare and honest book.
Name Michael & Allen
Location Delta Junction, Alaska
My partner and I have been in Alaska for ten years. We own an eighty-acre ex-dairy farm that we are trying to resurrect. Since 2006, we’ve been building a large (some would say huge) two-story house right in the middle of it. We’re finally getting siding on this month! We’ve begun collecting milk cows; two are currently being milked, and two heifers were born this year. We’re also raising hogs and one of our sows had her second litter two weeks ago. The goats kept eating my garden, so I insisted they had to go. The farm looks out on the glorious Alaska Range, as well as the White Mountains and the Granites. Living here brings us closer to our dream of self-sufficiency. I work as an environmental specialist for the Army. I am also chief of the Delta Junction Rescue Squad, an unpaid volunteer position that takes up many hours. Allen works for the state during the summer as a park ranger and is the true farmer between the two of us. We’re two Southerners who moved here for my job. We were curious how such a small town would greet us, and discovered that everyone knew pretty much everything before we even got here. Small towns have no secrets – even if you want to keep them, which we did not. There was a week of polite but curious gossip and questions, and then nothing. Our lives as gay men here have been completely uneventful. In fact, it’s more like the movie Big Eden, where good-hearted, loving people have pushed us to share our lives with them in a way that completely surprised and overwhelmed me. For this reason alone, we are home.
Location Chester, Virginia
I live in what I would call a “retirement” town. There are lots of elderly people, everyone here is pretty conservative, and there are very few activities for people to do. When I entered high school I had just moved here from Atlanta, and it was an extreme change of pace for me. Everyone was quiet and tightly compacted into the stereotype of what was acceptable. I always knew I was gay, and in Atlanta I was slowly beginning to show it. I told my mother before we moved away and she was fine with it, but I was afraid to tell my father. He was a military man straight out of the country; I doubt he had ever come into contact with a sexual minority, let alone spend time with one. When we moved, we left my mother behind. They weren’t quite divorced and they weren’t quite together. I guess they assumed that moving away from each other would help them realize what they really wanted. When we got to Virginia I was excited about the fresh start; I could just come into school gay, no need for a back-story, no need to make friends, I could just be myself. I quickly found that being out of the closet wasn’t going to go over easy. Everyone in town was a carbon copy of each other. All the kids wore the same clothes and looked exactly the same. I forced myself to fit in, even carrying on relationships with girls from time to time. I was upset I had to act this way, to put up a front. During a visit to my mother, I told her how unhappy I was. She explained to me that if the people at my school couldn’t accept me as gay then they really weren’t my friends at all, and that I wouldn’t know those people ten years from now. She said I shouldn’t be something I’m not just to impress people. On the way back to Virginia I decided I would be an out gay male, probably the first my town had ever seen. It was a long ride back, and I told my father everything. At first he was uneasy, but he told me he was going to love me regardless. When I returned I cut my hair into a mohawk, got rid of all my masculine, loose-fitting clothes, and became more fashion-forward. I was on a high; I loved being myself. Unfortunately, other people didn’t. I was ridiculed, mocked, bullied, and harassed. People called me a faggot, wrote “fudgepacker” on my locker, and even threw things at me. Every night I would cry. I was so miserable. I got into fights and was beat up a few times. Someone vandalized my house, writing “faggot” across my front door. My father had enough. He put me in boxing classes and told me to stop being so passive. I spent the whole summer learning to defend myself. On the first day of tenth grade I got in a fight and made an example of the kid. If anyone insulted me I would curse them out so bad that they’d never want to utter another word to me. I became a bit of a bad-ass, but I was happy because people stopped bullying me and started looking up to me. More and more, boys started coming out of the closet, and became examples of how happy gay teens could be. I started a small gay student association at my school and became actively involved in a youth group for teenagers in the city. I’m not worried about fitting in anymore.
Name Jacques & Abi
Location Sacramento, California
I live in Sacramento with Abi, my partner of more than thirty years. We recently married in front of twenty of our closest friends. Abi is very fond of telling me how he first observed me, long before we actually met, paddling my kayak upstream on the American River, which flows through the community where we currently reside. We have lived together since we met on the disco dance floor in 1976, where we were both inventing our own moves and steps. Abi moved to Sacramento from Detroit in 1973, and enjoys a semi-retirement as an antiques dealer. He collects antique miniatures and dollhouses and has an intense passion for finding and arranging furnishings for our home, which is dramatically filled with our shared interests. My hobby is riding and restoring antique bicycles. Using a bicycle built in 1886, I have set a two-hundred-mile distance and time record in Europe, and a one-hundred-mile distance and time record in Australia. When I can pull him away, Abi and I enjoy traveling together to warm, exotic places.
I’m a bit of a maverick, a roamer, and a wanderer. The most stable time in my life was my childhood. Growing up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the small California town of Twain Harte, I spent all my time playing in the forest. We had miles and miles of woodland around us. As an adolescent I resented where I lived—it was too remote, too far from my friends. Now, as an adult, I envy those who are able to live and thrive there. I left home at eighteen and spent a few months in southern Oregon before returning to California to attend college, where I came out. After I graduated, I moved to San Diego, and learned all about computers and corporate life. I was young and eager to conquer the world, but after five years of living the gay lifestyle I longed to be back in the country. I found that just because I was gay didn’t mean that I had to conform to the city culture of gay life. San Diego had become too big for me and was not fulfilling on a spiritual level. I met a couple while on vacation who were moving to Austin and they suggested I take a look as a possible place to live. Texas was hot, but there were rolling hills and the people were friendly. I was living on four acres outside of Austin with a couple of friends, enjoying both the country and the many comforts that come with city life. Ultimately we lost the ranch to foreclosure, but I was able to turn what some saw as a tragedy into a dream come true. A few weeks before losing the house I bought a fifth wheel RV. I moved myself, my three dogs, and my cat into my escape pod. It has been two years since I made that move, and I have never been happier. I am now free to roam the country, taking my family and my home with me where ever I go. Native Americans had the right idea keeping their lives so mobile. There is nothing more liberating than coming home one day, hitching up the house, and moving on to another town miles away. The scene outside my windows changes regularly and I love the mobility. There truly is a different way of life for each of us, and I have found mine.
Location Orlando, Florida
I’m from the Deep South. I always knew I was gay. It was never a big issue for me. It didn’t affect the way I thought about myself or make me feel like any less of a man than the other guys at my school or the friends I grew up with. It never occurred to me that I had some need or desire to come out. Over time my family and friends realized I was gay, but there was no need to talk about that, any more than who my brother was dating, or the private lives of other family members. If someone feels the need to ask me directly about my sexual preference, I have a few responses. If you’re an important person in my life, I’ll say yes of course I’m gay. If I’m asked in connection to a civil rights issue, I’m happy to stand up and be counted as gay and fight for our rights, as I do for all civil liberties. If you’re a relative stranger and are prying, I take the Southerner’s approach by politely saying that it’s my personal business and has nothing to do with you.
Scott, what triggered you to make this book?
I wanted to make a book that I wished existed when I was a kid. To show that as a gay man, you can go anywhere and do anything.
When I think about being gay in America, I think of only a few progressive countries. What did you experience?
I think the gay world in America is certainly as diverse and varied as the straight world is. Slowly we are assimilating into mainstream culture and healing from all the discrimination that has been thrown our way. How that compares to the rest of the world, including other progressive countries, is still something I would like to investigate.
You chose to put all stereotypes aside. Why did you make that choice?
I tried to vary the men and stories as much as possible when selecting who to include. I felt it was important to do so, to be true to all types of gay men. Often only the a-listers get all the attention.
Why only men?
I chose to do this for many reasons, including healing from my own past. I saw it as a way to learn from other men who had gone through similar things. They opened up to me and felt comfortable doing so because I was one of them.
You travelled 54,000 miles across fifty states over a three-year span. You listened to stories and documented the lives of 140 gay men. What’s the most beautiful story you heard?
That is a tough one. Many of these men had such wonderful stories. I love Stephens’ in Miami who talks about coming out to his parents at a young age. They dragged him off to a psychiatrist who ended up telling the parents that they were the ones who needed therapy. Such a simple and wonderful tale, if only all of our parents were told so.
Can you tell me your own story? Coming out?
I write a little about my coming out in the book’s introduction. My father was a born again and on his third marriage when I told him. His belief was that I was doomed to go to hell and I should pray to change. Religion is the root of so much hatred and making this book certainly allowed me to see that I was not alone.
Where did you find your models and how did you contact them?
I put ads out on social media and dating sites, looking for guys who might be interested. It was very easy to sort out those men that truly wanted to take part in this. They had to believe in me and my mission and had to send me their ‘story’ before I would commit to photographing them.
What would you like to achieve with these pictures? What do you want the spectator to see?
I want to help educate those that struggle with their own sexuality and perhaps those that struggle with accepting gay men, perhaps even their own family members. We are all God’s children, all created equally. We all face the same issues.
The pictures are accompanied by essays. Do you find it important for people to know the story behind the models?
Absolutely. To hear their own words adds incredible depth to the portraits. The stories are as important as the photos.
You featured 50 states. Was it important to cover the entire country?
It was a goal I set for myself from the beginning and one of the parameters of the project. To look at the life of gay men in every state. I felt it was socially important to view the country as a whole.
As an artist, are you most narrator or photographer?
I have always been more of a photographer than a narrator, but that is changing in time. This project has made me realize how important storytelling is to my job as a photographer.
Why is such a project important for you personally?
To make a difference is something we all aspire to do. I saw this project as a chance to do just that.
My partner and I renovated and opened an Inn and restaurant in Vermont last year and have been having fun getting it up and running. Getting out of the city and challenging ourselves with something new has been a wonderful change of pace. Yet my heart still longs for more photo projects like Gay in America. I’m heading to Los Angeles soon for more work and am looking forward to what that will bring. It’s all about balance.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Charlotte Lybeer
From 2003 until 2008, Charlotte Lybeer photographed gated communities and actual “theme parks” in the US, South Africa, Europe, China and the Arab Emirates. ‘The success of these ‘enclaves’ proves that in a society without boundaries, we still desire controllability. It seems that happiness is only possible in an artificial reality where everything is under control of its makers. An architectural décor is being built; a scene in which the inhabitants step away from everyday reality.’
Charlotte Lybeer studied photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Ghent and the HISK in Antwerp. For the series ‘The furtastic adventures of the cabbit and the folf’ she submerged in the world of furries. ‘Each of my series is a logical continuation of the previous one. In this case it was a continuation of ‘Larp, taking a holiday from everydayness’ from 2009. A series of portraits from LARP (Life Action Role Playing) players.
Charlotte uses photography to research the capsular aspects of our society. In her projects Lybeer takes an aesthetic, as well as a social look at people who form groups and/or separate themselves from others. In this case; Furries. The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics like intelligence, facial expressions, the ability to speak, to walk on two legs and wear clothes. During the 1980s, furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention and throughout the next decade, the Internet became accessible to the general population.
To create ‘The furtastic adventures of the cabbit and the folf’, Charlotte had to infiltrate into its fandom. ‘I became a member of different forums and online communities related on the subject matter and went to conventions in England and Germany. They’re gathering yearly in large hotels which they rent for private use.’ For this series the individuals were taken out of their safe groups and placed into their personal and intimate habitats. The contrast between the costume, which the person uses to tell us something about his or hers virtual identity, and the homey interior is an approach rarely to be seen. The setting reveals the personal identity and daily reality of the player, yet he is still in character.
Gaining those people their trust is a tour de force since they are often described as freaks in mainstream media. ‘The hardest part of this project was gaining that trust. If it would have been easy, there would be much more series like this. The first step was to become a member of the group and talk openly and clear about my work and what I wanted to achieve. The second part was to prove that I was serious on the subject matter. That can be achieved by being humorous without being flippant. The hardest part was to get personal so they would trust me enough to let me into their houses.’
‘The furtastic adventures of the cabbit and the folf’ is part of Charlottes project to get her doctors degree. It’s called ‘Lifestyle Supermarket’. She’s photographing different fandoms that are related to virtual, three-dimensional worlds such as Second Life, in which players can create a second identity. ‘It’s a very intriguing given. People can transform themselves into a superhero, a monster or and animal with human characteristics such as furries. The unique feature of these fandoms is, that these trans human identities are nowadays also assumed outside the virtual world. For me, those are examples of how contemporary men tries to fit in the image imposed by mass media such as movies and games. All my projects are inspired by how people react in a world that is changing. Not only geographical, but also on an imaginary level.’