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Art Spotlight Jeff Sheng Dont Ask Dont Tell


Jeff Sheng is a Los Angeles-based artist who announced in a blog post on Tuesday that Lt. Dan Choi has rejoined his unit for drill duty. Choi, who came out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009 and was arrested March 18, 2010 for chaining himself to the White House gates while protesting "don't ask, don't tell", has yet to be formally discharged. He posed for Sheng for his photography book Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Volume 1, excerpted here.

Artist Bio

Los Angeles-based artist Jeff Sheng also teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His photographic series "Fearless," currently on exhibit at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at PRIDE House, has been shown at over 40 venues across the world, including ESPN headquarters, the 2009 LGBT Human Rights conference in Copenhagen, and also this month at Penn State and Duke University. Jeff began photographing "Fearless," a project about out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes on high school and college sports teams, in 2003, the year after he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in photography, and the series now has more than 100 athletes. The Advocate featured "Fearless" in August 2008.

In 2009, Sheng began working on a photography project about "don't ask, don't tell," consisting of portraits of closeted men and women currently serving in the U.S. military. He traveled over 30,000 miles back and forth across the United States over an 11-month period, to shoot the images at the homes or local hotel rooms where these service members were stationed. The first photography book of this series, Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Volume 1, is now available for purchase at for $24.95, and was published the week before President Obama's 2010 State of the Union address.

"Ultimately for me, these photographs underscore the silence permeating the unsung heroism of gay and lesbian military personnel," Sheng says. "The photos are about the men and women who continue to fight and serve despite the heartbreaking invisibility they suffer."

In full color and 40 pages long, Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Volume 1 features all the photographs from the series taken in 2009. The photographs from this first book can be seen its entirety here in a slide show, and the cover image from the book is in this week's print edition of Time magazine alongside the coverage of the issue. He is currently shooting Volume 2 of the project and has already photographed over 35 service members in total for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The entire series will be exhibited in September at Kaycee Olsen Gallery in Los Angeles.

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