In honor of Valentine’s Day and beyond, please enjoy “Transcending Love,” portraits of LGBTQ couples in love by B. Proud.
As a lesbian photographer with a name like Barbara Proud, or B. Proud, there was no question that I would one day travel down the “art as activism” path. B. Proud is my mantra and a name that I have to honor. Indeed, my work during the past decade has been dedicated to social change through the creation of the First Comes Love Projects. This project, Transcending Love: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Couples, invites the viewer to accept the subjects as everyday people with hopes and dreams and a deep abiding love. The portraits offer an invitation to accept what’s beneath the surface, not in terms of anatomy, sexuality, or gender expression, but rather what lies in the hearts and souls of the subjects.
Transcending Love specifically focuses on celebrating couples and families in a community that has been silenced far too long. This work focuses on portraying couples, and not just individuals, in committed relationships and their love and determination to be together. It is one thing for a person to find their truth and decide to transition; it is another to do that and navigate the complexities of a relationship.
The formality of these portraits, as opposed to candid photographs, is aimed at honoring the subjects in a more stately, heroic way. For this community, visibility is validating, and these portraits offer affirmation that the subjects deserve the right to live as their true authentic selves. This visible “normalcy” confirms that the honesty of gender expression is both non-threating and liberating. The subjects are not asking permission to live their truth, they are proudly demonstrating their right to do so. Each portrait location, chosen by the couple in discussion with the artist, is significant and provides the viewer with another level of understanding into the relationship.
Every effort has been made to encompass the greatest amount of geographic, socio-economic, age, and ethnic diversity in this project to emphasize that transgender people are arelevant part of our culture in each and every state. To date, I have photographed 66 couples in 24 states.
The subjects photographed show an array of relationships and an assortment of combinations, all with the common thread of people being their true selves and falling in love. Whether it’s two transgender men, two transgender women, a formerly heterosexual couple where either one spouse or partner has transitioned, a formerly lesbian couple, where one has transitioned, or a cis gay man and a trans man, all are portrayed with the respect they deserve as human beings. Hopefully, these portraits will help open doors that have been closed shut far too long.
About the Photographer
As both a commercial and fine art photographer, B. Proud has exhibited her work in solo and group shows around the globe. In addition to having photographed President Barack Obama and Lady Gaga on the same day, Barbara maintains an impressive list of clients. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Photography Department at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC.
B. Proud’s current work is a series of socially conscious documentary projects focused on the LGBTQ+ and transgender communities. “First Comes Love,” is a traveling exhibition of photographs, stories and video of couples in long-term relationships. When the mainstream publishers refused to take on the project, Barbara forged ahead and self-published the coffee table book “First Comes Love: Portraits of Enduring LGBTQ Relationships,” with a foreword by icon Edie Windsor. A compilation of stunning black & white portraits and stories of 65 couples, the book has received two gold medal awards. The book is still available here: First Comes Love Book Her short film, “A Circle of Diamonds,” produced with Philly locals Michael Biello and Dan Martin about Edie Windsor’s diamond engagement pin, has been included in16 film festivals worldwide.
The sequel project, “Transcending Love” is a current work in progress and is focused on transgender and
gender non-conforming couples across the country in attempt to open hearts and minds to a community deserving of understanding, respect, and basic human rights. She is currently working towards representing the greatest amount of ethnic, geographic, socio-economic and age diversity in this project in order to show a country that is increasing becoming divided that transgender and gender nonconforming couples are everyone’s neighbor.
Proud’s projects have received grants from the B.W. Bastian Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, The University of the Arts, and the Delaware State Arts Council as well as private investors. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Center for Photography Woodstock, the Weeks Gallery, Jamestown, NY, the Delaware Art Museum, Eastman Kodak, Haverford College, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and private collections.
B. Proud lives in Wilmington, DE with her wife, Allison, and two dogs, Soleil and Cosette.
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