Gayface: Pictures of Pride

Last week, President Obama signed a proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

There are commemorations all over the city in addition to the 39th annual Capital Pride Festival along Pennsylvania Avenue this Sunday. Marriott Hotels created a #lovetravels campaign to lay the welcome mat for LGBT guests, and hung a huge banner featuring Brooklyn Nets star Jason Collins on the J.W. Marriott to kick it off. And a new documentary narrated by Bebe Neuwirth called Just Gender debuted here yesterday, exploring the “personal, medical, financial and societal challenges transgender people experience in their daily lives.”

But if you were to think about the “face” of the LGBT community, what would come to mind? DC-born photographer Ashley Kolodner has been traveling the country to capture that face, one “human” at a time, as she puts it. Her project, called Gayface: 1st Class, is a joyous study of all the shapes, sizes—and genders—within this group. She places each subject in front of a vividly printed background (I think it’s wrapping paper), and then asks each one to pose with eyes closed, and then open.

Ashley Kolodner

Ashley Kolodner

She aims to capture each person’s sense of vulnerability with their eyes closed, and then lets them express themselves in as they look straight at the viewer, eyes wide open. Her work is arresting and dramatic, and it captures each person in their own right—out of reach from anyone’s preconceived notion or judgment.

I asked Ashley to see pictures of her DC-based subjects, and she sent me more than three dozen. Here are my favorites:

Bekah

Bekah

 

Zach

Zach

 

Chavaguela

Chavaguela

 

Will

Will

 

Crystal

Crystal

 

Stephen

Stephen

 

Chelsea

Chelsea

 

Ben

Ben

 

Star

Star

 

Daniel

Daniel

 

Slammer

Slammer

 

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

 

Deylin

Deylin

 

Natalie

Natalie

 

Mark

Mark

 

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

 

Lance

Lance

 

Emma

Emma

 

Keith

Keith

I could look at these pictures all day long—I think it’s the backgrounds that really make each subject pop, the bright colors and patterns, and the spectrum of facial expressions. You, too, can spend hours of your day perusing these portraits on Ashley’s Tumblr blog, right here.

Unfortunately, a kickstarter campaign earlier this spring failed to raise sufficient funds for her to produce a book, but if you are as mesmerized as I am with these images, you can still donate to the cause here. That is a coffee table book I want to own!

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Comments

  1. These are absolutely beautiful! Thank you Jennifer for keeping us all tuned in to such interesting and talented artists and artisans . Your wide circle of creative friends and colleagues are all people I’d like to meet and know more about!! thank you for introducing them !

  2. Joseph Gilday says:

    Brilliant! These are stunning. Van Gogh used backgrounds like that for some of his portraits (most likely not wrapping paper). Also, I scanned the photos before I read any of your copy. I thought the eyes closed was suggested by the photographer to get the subject to relax, breathe and be present. Such a great idea. Love it.