Jake Naughton: When We Were Strangers
Queer love is profound. It’s joy in the face of adversity, warmth and vitality where people believe there shouldn’t be. Though there are more than a fair share of photo books about straight relationships, there’s a dearth of ones about queer people, living and loving. Our project takes a look at our love in all its nuances, brings you in close and doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty. – Jake Naughton
Fortunately for ourselves and our world, love has no boundaries. Love has no color, no gender, no nationality, no size or shape. For each of us, the experience is unique, and with each person that captures a piece of our hearts, the connection has it’s own navigation and rewards. Photographer Jake Naughton explores what it means to be in love in his new project and soon-to-be-book, When We Were Strangers.
Jake states, “For nearly eight years, in images, writing and life, plain and simple, my partner Juan and I have tried to tease out the answer through a collaborative photo project. Love is a cliche, an idea so easy to imagine but impossible to grasp. Like an overripe fruit, it collapses with a bit of pressure into cloying sweetness and the faint sense of something lost. At its most basic, falling in love means cleaving away something of yourself and becoming something else. It’s painful and hard, but also carries the potential for profound transformation.”
Jake has created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the forthcoming book, When We Were Strangers, a collaboration by both Jake Naughton and Juan Anibal Sosa Iglesias, to be published by Red Hook Editions in early 2019.
Jake Naughton is a visual artist and journalist based in Mexico City, making work about queerness in the present moment. This takes the form of long-term, in-depth projects like This is How the Heart Beats, about East Africa’s LGBTQ community, Both Sides of the Veil, which showcases a strange limbo for India’s queer community, or When We Were Strangers, which deconstructs love through the prism of his own relationship with his partner. He was named one of Photo District News’ 30’s New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 2017, and his work has been recognized and supported by the Magenta Foundation, American Photography, the Robert Giard Foundation and others. He is the recipient of multiple Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grants, an Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the inaugural Emerging Photographer Project Grant from the Magenta Foundation. His work has been exhibited in the US and internationally, and commissioned by the New York Times Instagram, the Smithsonian Institution, VICE Magazine, Wired Magazine and Pentagram.
Juan Sosa recently completed coursework for a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security and Development from King’s College London. Prior to this, while working at the Legal Aid Society, he advocated for unaccompanied children escaping violence in Central America, and defended them in U.S. immigration court. Originally from El Salvador, he came to the United States as a child, fleeing the civil war in his home country.
Though not a professional photographer himself, he has been involved in this project at every level, from making photographs included in the book, to sequencing its pages, to ensuring that all aspects of our relationship were documented and represented in the project and the book.
When We Were Strangers is the first part of a lifelong project deconstructing love through the prism of our relationship. This first chapter is a love poem of sorts, one that charts what happens when two people attempt to become something more and less than that, when we are more unknown stranger to each other than anything else.
But love is an ouroboros that eats the past that came before it. Who was I before you?
We are interested in the frayed edges, the messy intersections, the elements of ourselves lost and new facets gained in the process, and the limits to all of that.
Our love story isn’t a fairy tale — it’s tough stuff, two people becoming more and less than that. We wanted to make a record of what this process meant, and felt like.
Our book takes you through the ups and downs, the challenges and triumphs, the every day little wondrous moments and the darkness that sometimes follows.
Oh yeah, and we’re gay.
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