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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Kris Sanford

SPE Member since 2010
Member Chapter: Midwest

Finding Our Place

I first came out 25 years ago. Sometimes I struggled to find my place, struggled to fit in. Even if you find yourself at home in a community or relationship, that sense of belonging can shift and dissipate. Change is the only constant.

In 2016, I revisited a small group of gay and lesbian folks I had made portraits of some 16 years earlier. Originally all photographed in Detroit and its suburbs, my subjects are now scattered around Michigan and across the country. I rephotographed them and made video interviews as well. Our conversations covered aging, love and loss, parenthood, and other issues still facing the queer community. This is not an exhaustive study of queer people, nor does it just represent a tight circle of friends. Instead, this project explores a group of people I originally photographed with the goal of creating relatable portraits of people like me. I was a student when I made the first pictures and I was trying to create positive change, as small and incremental as it might have been. In 2000, coming out was considered an act of courage, especially depending on where one lived. I sought to make portraits that didn't overly sexualize or sensationalize my subjects, but that gave a small glimpse into the ordinariness of their homes and lives.

In some places, coming out is still an act of courage today. I circled back around to these portraits after same sex marriage became legal in the United States, a victory that I wasn't sure I'd see in my lifetime. This project is a reflection on how far acceptance of LGBT people has come in the last 16 years. It also represents my own effort to understand the complex, varied, and vibrant community that I belong to. This search for a place is not unique to the LGBT community, it's part of the human experience. In these photographs, I see people becoming more comfortable in their own skin and more confident in the world.

Nathan 1999/2016

Susan 1999/2016

Armando 2000/2016

Gary 2000/2016

Karen 2000/2016

Virlena 2000/2016

George 2000/2016

John 2000/2016

Molly 1999/2016

Dennis 2000/2016

Laura 1999/2016

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