With "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" officially over for the U.S. military, many more Americans are discovering that old stereotypes about homosexuality simply don't pass muster. Nowhere is that sentiment clearer than in Scott Pasfield's Gay in America, a book chronicling the cross-country journey the photographer took to interview gay men from all walks of life.
By documenting these men through stunning portraits and personal essays, Pasfield has made a striking statement about the diversity of the male gay community. Their stories are at various points tragic and joyful, detailing the risks -- and rewards -- of accepting themselves and fighting for true equality. He will discuss his project at Design Within Reach tonight.
Pasfield has had great success photographing celebrities (including Carrie Fisher, Marisa Tomei, and David Byrne, to name a few) so we wondered what led him to travel 54,000 miles in search of ordinary people.
New Times: How did you come up with the idea for Gay in America?
Scott Pasfield: I wanted to make a book that I wished existed when I was
a kid and was coming to terms with being gay. To know that you could
grow up and be whatever you wanted, wherever you wanted, would have
helped me with my own issues of self-acceptance earlier. The idea came
to me after some serious soul-searching and hit me like a ton of bricks.
Was there a particular story that especially surprised or moved you?
They all really moved me; it was one of the requirements I had set up
for deciding how to choose men for the book. I was looking for goose
bumps through emotion. Even after knowing these men and their stories
for years now, I still get choked up by many of them: Ken from Maryland, Rick
from Georgia, Henry, Cameron and Scott from Minnesota; Kevin and Mark from Missouri.
Who do you think (or hope) will get the most out of your book, gays or heterosexuals or both?
I am hoping that everyone will benefit from the book. I don't think you
have to be gay to learn from the men included, their stories are
universal. But I feel confident that the heterosexuals that buy this
book for their gay sons, brothers, uncles, fathers or friends to show
their support and love, will not only learn something about gay men in
the process, but themselves in the long run.
What do you hope comes as a result of projects such as this?
I hope that it broadens acceptance and love of the gay community. That
it helps teens or closeted adults know that there is a great country out
there for them to explore and live in, that they can go anywhere and do
anything. And that it sparks awareness and conversations.
What do you think an advantage of photography is in documenting the gay
experience as opposed to other forms of artistic expression?
I think that you can learn a lot about people through photographs; their
eyes, expressions and body language all tell their own story. The men
in the book also allowed me into their worlds, to photograph them at
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home and had nothing to hide. For me portrait photography is a very
honest and revealing art form.
Pasfield will discuss his project at Design Within Reach Tuesday at 7 p.m. Admission is free.