Don’t Ask, Tell, or Be Yourself


Photo by Jeff Sheng

This week the New York Times ran a piece on Southern California-based photographer Jeff Sheng, whose series and book “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” features that very hot-button topic of homosexuals in the military. Though the faces of the servicemen and women are obscured, the portraits are a clear statement about the military’s shameful policy.

Sheng, who himself is gay, tells the story of his path to this book, and it’s interesting how it evolved from him being a closeted athlete who never felt like he could be himself to wanting to document gay athletes he admired for being out and proud. That turned into the well-respected project “Fearless,” which continues to tour the country (including a stint at the Olympics). And from that, because of the reaction he got from military personnel who were moved and inspired, he turned his focus to DADT.

Sheng talks about originally wanting to do a documentary for “Fearless” but decided against it because he didn’t think people who are already opposed to the concept would ever watch it. (Such is the closed mind.) So he decided to do photographs, and his assessment of the power of photos is a good one:

 “But people can happen upon a picture. Some pictures — like the ones of civil rights protestors being attacked by dogs — sum up what’s really at stake. People who don’t even mean to see it end up seeing it. And then things change.”

Article from New York Times

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