LOVE Week: B. Proud: First Comes Love
First Comes Love: Portraits of Enduring LGBTQ Relationships is a compilation of portraits and written glimpses into long term LGBTQ+ relationships by B. Proud. By photographing so many couples, Proud is able to go deeper than a generic representation of a queer couple, revealing the tenderness and normalcy of the relationships. The book was first published in 2013 and has been the gold medal winner of the 2016 Independent Publishers Awards and 2017 New York Big Book Awards.
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 teaches photography at the International Center of Photography in NYC and is an Adjunct Professor of the Photography at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
B. Proud shares:
The “First Comes Love” Project officially began in March of 2009, with the portrait of two of my oldest and dearest friends, Susan Eggert and Niki Rose Chester. Massachusetts was the only state allowing for same-sex marriage. Vermont had instituted civil unions beginning in the year 2000, and New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island followed suit. Washington, DC, had domestic partnerships. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was the federal law of the land. In 2008, I celebrated 20 years of togetherness with Allison, my partner, who is now, thankfully, my wife. We were the longest-standing couple in our families and the ones without all of the rights.
Available at: https://firstcomeslove.org/BUY-the-BOOK/1
Preview the book: https://firstcomeslove.org/PREVIEW-the-BOOK/1
In 2009, the country elected a fair-minded president. Yet, in the same election, Proposition 8, outlawing same-sex marriages in California, was passed, along with a similar measure in Arizona and another banning gay couples from adopting children in Arkansas. My mood went from elated to heartbroken to incensed at the bigotry still so prevalent in a nation that prides itself on freedom. In redirecting my anger, it became clear that my next photographic project should honor and celebrate my relationship with my partner while making a statement about LGBTQ couples and the power of our love. Allison and I had not given each other gifts on our anniversary. What material thing could possibly express what our love means to each other? But this was a gift that I could give to us and thousands of other couples like us.
“First Comes Love” is a glimpse into the “everyday” lives of LGBTQ+ couples who have been in their relationships for 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years! Unlike the stereotypical picture painted by the media, these portraits and stories seek to educate those who question, celebrate those who have loving, devoted relationships, and provide an historical record of the strength of this community. I have photographed and recorded diverse LGBTQ+ couples and created an expressive portrait to represent the depth, seriousness, and love between two people who have committed to one another in each relationship. The portraits are presented in black and white to break down further the stereotypes in a society where homosexuality is often characterized by nothing more than images of drag queens, gay pride parades, and rainbow flags. The essence of this community goes much deeper. The world needs to see the more human side of these relationships, and this project intends to show just that. These couples are “over the rainbow” in love and the portraits, by being in black and white, force the viewer to take a deeper look into the true nature of these relationships. This project emphasizes that gay relationships are in many ways no different than heterosexual ones, yet each is unique in and of itself. The people represented live “ordinary” lives made extraordinary by their endurance of the attitudes and policies that society directs against them, all the while facing the everyday struggles encountered by any long-term relationship. Through tenderness of touch or intimacy of gaze, the deep seeded emotions of these lovers are revealed.
The “First Comes Love” Project is a traveling exhibition of photographs, stories, videos, and, now, a hardbound book., This documentary bears witness that people represented in the project have endured the challenges, victories, defeats, births, deaths, loves, and losses that any couple faces in many years together. These couples stand together “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” and WITHstand the test of time and the discrimination allowed by inequitable laws of many states. These photographs emphasize the “normalcy” of these relationships and serve as a testament to the LGBTQ+ youth of our community that long-term, stable, loving relationships are indeed a possibility for their future.
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. “First Comes Love” has been exhibited in New York City, Philadelphia, Delaware, Washington state, Washington, DC, Seattle, Minneapolis, Florida, Berlin, Germany and Athens, Greece. 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 in 16 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 non-conforming 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. Her work is included in 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.
Facebook: First Comes Love or Barbara Proud
To make tax-deductible donations to the project: https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/first-comes-love
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