Thirty years ago, photographer Sage Sohier set about to chronicle long-term gay relationships. Her aim was to dispel stereotypes about same-sex couples in the 1980s. Inspired by the AIDS epidemic, the photographer wanted to help the general (hetero) public understand that the promiscuous homosexual portraits promoted by the press weren’t the whole story. She wanted to show loving couples of all ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds, giving the public something closer to their own experience that they could relate to. The project was titled “At Home With Themselves,” and I find it really beautiful and touching.
After Sohier had exhausted her list of coupled friends, she began putting ads in gay newspapers and approaching couples in bars. While some couples demured, she was mostly very pleased at the reaction she got to her unusual request to photograph the pairs.
“I was interested in how, as a culture, we weren’t used to looking at two men touching and was struck by the visual novelty yet total ordinariness of these same-sex relationships. The visual ambiguity of same-sex relationships also intrigued me: were these sisters or friends or lovers or a mother and daughter? It was the beginning of a turning point, and more and more gay and lesbian couples wanted to be seen, wanted their relationships to be recognized and valued.”
Many, many of the beautiful men and women I buried in the eighties were in long-term, monogamous relationships, so the press’s one-note representation of this dying population as twinks and sex-crazed drug users really hurt. I wish I had come across Sohier’s work during those dark days. I think it would have been a real comfort to me and to the others who kept silent watch with me.
I’d like to dedicate today’s post to all the wonderful, creative, sweet, funny, complicated lovelies lost to this terrible plague.
You can see all of Sohier’s wonderful work on her website.
All images property of Sage Sohier.