When I first conceived of Gayface, I didn’t anticipate that creating a series to highlight our community would become an act of community-building in itself. I’ve kept in touch with many of the people in this book, whether they were friends from the outset or became friends because of the project. For many, the shared experience of participating and subsequently seeing their images as part of a larger collective portrait created a shared bond with a community they had perhaps only partly known.
Because portraiture is always a collaboration and the resulting document is a record of that relationship, I want each interaction with my subjects to be as meaningful as possible. Sitting for a portrait, being portrayed in a photograph requires trust—a certain amount of giving of oneself by both subject and artist. My offering was to try to create an experience in which each individual would not only feel empowered, but more importantly, seen. Perhaps we could also simultaneously, and together, offer some kind of meaningful reflection back to the viewer.
And so I ask: Do you see yourself, maybe your reflection, here, anywhere within these pictures? Do you see a friend or family member? And those whose portraits are not present in these pages—are they here? What about those who are not part of your own immediate community? Can you see them? This book is about more than representation. It’s about more than allyship. It is about accompliceship. For we are your mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances, and we will not be shamed into staying hidden in the shadows but rather will celebrate ourselves (and each other) for the beautiful, complex and wonderous human beings we are.
I hope this series will help educate—and inspire—every person who comes across it. I also hope it inspires many to become more involved, and to educate themselves about this incredibly important and diverse community. In the back of this book, you’ll find a selected glossary of terms to help foster greater communication and understanding about the LGBTQ+ community. I sincerely hope you take the time to read through it. By doing so, you’ll be taking a small—but essential—step toward creating greater visibility and raising up the power of our community.
— Ash Kolodner