November 11, 2013

This past weekend I was humbled to be presenting at the Society of Photographic Education's northwest regional conference held at The Art Institute of Seattle, where I enroll in a course each quarter. It was the first artist talk I've given, and all in all a really positive experience.

I spoke about my work for an hour to an audience of about two dozen. I began with 30 portfolio images, in color and in black-and-white, introducing how I landed in photography almost three years ago. The visual image captures all the nuances of people and their lives that had been so difficult to express in writing. I have always had an interest in the news and culture, and thought the field of journalism would be where I'd find a career. In the process of getting a degree at Indiana University and working as a copy editor at newspapers, I was continually drawn to the power of photography to tell a story about people and their lives. It expresses the contrast between their outward differences and inward similarities.

I told of how, upon moving to Seattle and after first working as a preschool teacher, that through an odd set of circumstances I was hired as the photographer for the Seattle Gay News at the beginning of 2011, right as I got a camera. The paper gave me credibility and access to Seattle's LGBTQ scene at the height of Washington state's marriage equality movement. Since, I've contributed imagery of 725+ events, from drag pageant fundraisers to civil rights marches to historic weddings. It's been a privilege to document people's lives and their aspirations for equal footing in American culture.

As a straight ally, I couldn't have found a better niche in the Seattle Gay News: I've been afforded access, exposure, a reason to be taking pictures, and a big one for me, or any photographer - a real sense of community. The lecture and slideshow encompassed the importance of photography in defining and bridging Seattle's many LGBTQ communities. I shared nearly 300 images from 2011 and 2012, telling stories of how each was made. Because the edits were rough and to hide the fact that no color correction work had been done, they were shown in black-and-white. As well as the audience's, it was my first time seeing the images in this way.

Afterwards I asked Ric Petersen, the head of AIS' photo department and also a friend, his thoughts. What he said was pretty great. He admitted he's been to a lot of these, a lot of artist talks, and that I showed, "What? 300 images? That's 240 more than I've seen any other photographer present. Good job." And then he gave a thumbs up. While the subjects and environments in my images have become normal and everyday for me, he did note that some people may not see things with those kinds of eyes (three individuals walked out after less than five minutes), and that I may want to address that the next time. He appreciated my candor about how I went about making the images, and got a kick out of the disconnect between what I was saying and what the audience was seeing, "which were just great images," he said.

Here are four selects from the never-before-shown set: