Gay Warriors is a series of photographic portraits of same-sex couples in the US military. Taken following the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (2011) and preceding the recent repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (2013) these images offer an intimate look into the lives of the individuals who are at the frontier of this generation’s civil rights movement: marriage equality.
Working across the disciplines of documentary and art photography, these portraits reflect upon the broader implications of these changes on the human condition.
When associated with the LGBT community, the bedroom has been a symbol for homosexual Otherness, reduced to an eroticized space, overlooking the additional aspects of human experience it represents: birth, death, illness, nurturing, rest, renewal. In Gay Warriors, the bedroom becomes a symbol of normality and belonging. Although the portraits are highly personal, the details unique to each couple become a mere backdrop for their humanity.
Gay Warriors considers the sociopolitical and cultural fluctuations in the sweep of history and what these undulations reveal about human nature. Throughout history, war has been a focal point within cultural narratives. By referencing historical representations of the war hero, these images highlight how gay soldiers have largely been excluded from the canon of military history and cultural production. Similarly, Gay Warriors is a contemporary interpretation of 17th century Flemish marriage portraits, questioning our present-day notions of ‘traditional’ marriage. Mimicking the formality and earnestness of those portraits allows the subtly of expression to convey the character of the sitters. Their understated hand gestures reveal the tenderness and intimacy between them, their expressions disclose the complexity of emotion in response to their paradoxical situation; as gay soldiers they were fighting for the values of their country, namely, freedom and equality, but were not treated as equals by the laws of the very country they served.