"States of Union" Statement
When I was a child, households
consisting of a mother and a father surrounded me. As I entered into
adolescence I watched as my peers swooned over boys at dances, lusted
after Bon Jovi, and imagined life with Johnny Depp. I, on the other
hand, had a crush on a 10th-grade girl, worshipped Madonna, and pined
for Jodie Foster. As I started to question my sexuality, I began to
look for representations of queer culture that felt familiar — akin to
the parts of myself with which I was already comfortable and familiar.
I found very few: The photographs I saw were limited to parades and
protests; there were neither paintings nor sculptures to which I could
make reference; the gay and lesbian protagonists in films and on
television either turned out to be “straight,” died a drug-induced
death, or were victims of a hate crime. Not only did this lack of
representation make me feel isolated and alone, but it also reinforced
stereotypes and perpetuated homophobic attitudes and my own internal
struggle. I asked myself time and again: "Where are the people like me?"

is out of this experience from which the idea for "States of Union"
emerged. "States of Union" is a series of color portrait photographs of
gay and lesbian couples and families. The aim of this project is
twofold. First, to present images that defy heteronormative awareness
by showing gay and lesbian couples and families in familiar and
so-called normative settings. Second, by presenting a collection of
images that call into question preconceived notions of family, the
project both challenges those who continue to malign the notion of gay
and lesbian families, and offers alternative — and perhaps more
realistic — models to the gay and lesbian community.

photographs that make up "States of Union" are loosely based upon
classical paintings; this history is invoked through gesture, color
scheme, background, and lighting. By drawing upon classical images, the
tropes used to promote heterosexual family units are be reappropriated
and reinvented to serve a more expanded view of family. In so doing,
the viewer recognizes something familiar about the image, feeling a
kinship with families that might otherwise look and feel unrecognizable.

opportunity to see oneself — to have a visual representation of the
possibility of what one might become — is a privilege long denied to
gays and lesbians; this is a lack that my project seeks to remedy. By
photographing gay and lesbian couples and families from across America,
I hope to create images that are deeply resonant with straight and gay
alike. Moreover, by familiarizing all Americans with an expanded visual
repertoire of images that suggest "family," gay and lesbian Americans
have a greater chance of finally being granted access to equal rights
as citizens.

Tags: Art