First Comes Love
A picture is still worth a thousand words, and sometimes they can even tell the stories of whole lives. That is stunningly evident in Philadelphia-based photographer B.Proud's book "First Comes Love."
It is a portrait gallery in book form of over 70 gay, lesbian, transgender couples, most who have been together for decades, from all different nationalities and background, some multi-racial pairs, some with children, some widowed, but all a testament to living their truth in their love and commitment to each other and their families.
The collection is more than an illustrative valentine to gay couples; it illustrates the dignity, humanity and power of couples who have built a life together in an openly homophobic culture. Commentary on the facing page of the plates describes the couple and the story of their lives together.
Barbara Proud has been in a long-term relationship with her partner, Allison Cassidy, and the last plate is her gorgeous self-portrait on the beach at sunset (with an unnamed, but obviously beloved canine next to them). Proud started the book in 2009 because she was "incensed" at the passage of Prop 8 in California that represented the lies and the "bigotry that is still so prevalent in a nation that prides itself on freedom." Proud wanted to present and document "a glimpse into the 'everyday' lives" of LGBTQ couples.
Proud shot the portraits in black and while and they are beautifully transferred to book form. She wanted "compel the viewer to look into the true nature of these relationships." The portraits express so much intimacy between these couples, beyond just sex, intellectual, emotional, physical and some pictured with their children, all revealing a reality of a unique relationship.
This is not a slick coffee table book. Proud's portraiture is not only artistically dynamic, but also an important document capturing, among other things, a unique arc of American social history.
This is illustrated beautifully by couple Chris and Billy, were married in 2014 on the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Chris explained to Proud, "I feel that this marriage certificate is more an acknowledgement of our 36 years of working on our relationship and appreciating what we have achieved... We've been able to mold our relationship in a way that makes sense for us."
Proud's book includes a beautiful portrait of Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court DOMA case. Windsor writes in the book's forward, "The day the Defense of Marriage Act fell...something happened to all of us...not just gay people who wanted to get married."