STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON/For Digital First Media
Love will keep them together, and has, in some cases for 50 years or more. Couples who have been together for decades, who are LGBTQ, are the focus of the photography exhibit “First Comes Love” in Wilmington, Del.
The work of photographer B. Proud (Barbara), the recipient of a 2014 Individual Artist Fellowship in Photography through the Delaware Division of the Arts, is part of a larger project she’s working on. It’s a social documentary celebrating “long-term relationships and a lifetime of love in the LGBTQ community.”
The idea for the project started when Proud and her partner, Allison, hit their 20th anniversary (about six years ago).
“We were the longest standing relationship in our families,” she said.
They were the “go to” couple, for powers of attorney, to be godparents, as dog watchers – you name it.
“We’re the stable ones, but at that time without the rights and frankly without the recognition,” she said. “People loved us and supported us, but our relationship didn’t have the same validation as some on their second and third tries.”
Then, she was upset by Proposition 8 passing in California, which eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry (Prop 8 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional). She was “incensed that such hateful measures still were aimed at people who just want to live and love in peace.”
So she started the project “to educate people about what our relationships are really like on the surface and below the surface,” she said.
Proud, who’s an award-winning photographer who has exhibited around the world, has photographed more than 70 couples. She created a book of the pictures and their stories and hopes to do another volume in the future. The commercial and fine arts photographer, who teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, started taking pictures when she was nine and won an “Instamatic” camera. She likes photography because the visual aspect can capture the attention of people who might not otherwise learn about an issue. Also, having an exhibit in the Carvel State Office Building means a variety of people will see it.
“I’m really excited that the show is in a very public and open space,” she said. “People are going to see this project that normally wouldn’t go to a gallery.”
Stories for each couple accompany the photographs so people can learn who they are and about their relationship.
“That’s takes people to another level of understanding,” she said, and that’s important. “Relationships are getting more recognition. The laws are changing allowing people to be married and people are celebrating these marriages.”
But that’s not enough.
“Laws don’t change minds. It doesn’t mean people will accept,” she said. “Until people accept us, there will still be gay bashings. Teenagers will still commit suicide because they’re trans or gay. There still needs to be more understanding.”
IF YOU GO
What: “First Comes Love” by B. Proud
When: Reception 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6; exhibit runs 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through Feb. 27
Where: Mezzanine Gallery, 820 N French St., Carvel State Office Building, Wilmington, Del. 19801
Info.: Visit http://www.artsdel.org/
Learn more about the project here http://www.firstcomeslove.org/