First Comes Love Combines Photo Portraits and Interviews to Change Minds
It’s great when an author’s name just naturally celebrates her subject matter. And Philadelphia photographer Barbara Proud is a terrific example.
Her new book, First Comes Love—Portraits of Enduring LGBTQ Relationships is billed as a book by B. Proud. And she certainly should be!
This brand new book of photographs and stories has its book launch and goes on sale on September 26. With a foreword by none other than Edie Windsor of Supreme Court fame, whose successful lawsuit led the way for federal gay marriage rights, this book is both timely and a tome whose time has come.
The book features photographs and love stories that celebrate the lives and enduring relationships of LGBTQ couples from across the U.S.
“Every couple in this book was so special and so different. It was an incredible experience,“ says Proud, a commercial and fine art photographer and Adjunct Associate Professor at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
“There was not a single couple that didn’t move me in one way or another. Even my assistants were deeply moved,” says the author and photographer.
But as moving as the stories were, the opportunity to meet Edie Windsor and have this gay rights icon do the book’s foreword seems to have been the icing on the cake. And, according to Proud, it wasn’t easy to achieve.
“I began trying to reach Edie Windsor back in 2012, well before the briefs were heard in the Supreme Court. I was told to go through her lawyer, so I wrote to her several times. And then I wrote to Edie herself several times and sent her lots of information about what I was doing. As it turns out, two of the couples are actually long time friends of hers and they both put in a good word for me, but Edie was so busy and then so exhausted from the Supreme Court ordeal that she declined to participate. I waited a while and then made one final effort and just left it up to the universe.”
By January 2014, on her birthday no less, Proud had “pretty much lost hope on Edie, and was out doing errands and admitted to being “a little grumpy about getting older.” She was at a coffee shop when her cell phone rang with an unknown California number. I almost didn’t answer. At the last minute, I picked up and the voice on the other end said, “Barbara? This is Edie Windsor. I would love to be a part of your project. You are doing great work.”
Proud says she nearly dropped the phone. Their conversation was brief and they made a photo shoot date for two months later. According to Proud, the photo shoot, at Windsor’s New York apartment went wonderfully.
She and her crew spent a “lovely and amazing afternoon with her. She told us stories and showed us photographs. We made a portrait. I interviewed her on tape. And she agreed to do the Foreword. We drank champagne. It was a great experience.”
As for the subjects of her photos and stories, Barbara Proud had many special moments. She spent a few days with Jack and David, a couple living with HIV/AIDS.” It was beautiful to see how they live their lives and how they have come to terms with battling this virus. Their lives are surrounded by peace, beauty, harmony, and love,” says Proud.
Other couples talked about “times long ago when they would flash the lights in the gay bars to signal that you should find a partner of the opposite sex to dance with because the police were coming in.”
The author heard tales of couples meeting Harvey Milk and talking of San Francisco life after his murder, and of a couple who “lived in one house divided into two apartments, with two separate entrances, and two addresses in order to give the right appearance to their neighbors.”
These and so many other stories are detailed in First Comes Love. When the project began in 2009, Proposition 8 had just outlawed same-sex marriages in California and the Defense of Marriage Act prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
“Now,” says Proud, ”five years later, DOMA has been declared unconstitutional and Proposition 8 has been defeated for good.” Even so, there are currently almost 30 states where gay and lesbian marriage remains illegal.
As LGBTQ couples continue to face discrimination based on myths, prejudice and popular misconceptions, First Comes Love seeks to change attitudes, open hearts, and propel the marriage equality movement simply by introducing and sharing the love stories of 65 real American longterm same-sex couples.
“First Comes Love has it right,” says supporter Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry. “It’s the faces and stories of real people that open hearts and minds and pave the way to legal and social change.”
A First Comes Love Project exhibition will be on display at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia from September 26-30, 2014. The exhibition opening celebration and official book launch will take place on the evening of the September 26, from 6-9 p.m.
A book signing will also take place at CAMP Rehoboth on Saturday, October 18 from 3-5 p.m.