Jeff Sheng Asks and Tells

Posted by David Ozanich — 20 Sep 2010

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The role of photographer as social documentarian goes back almost as far as the medium itself. In that vein, the LA Times had a very interesting story over the weekend about photographer Jeff Sheng’s work on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which features gay and lesbian members of the United States Armed Forces.

The project consists of about 60 portraits taken in 25 states. A gallery show of 20 photos from the project will open Saturday and run until Oct. 23 at the Kaycee Olsen Gallery in L.A., accompanied by a new book featuring more portraits.

Sheng said that the project is more artistic than political in nature. He described it as a kind of collaboration with the service members, all of whom volunteered for the project and chose how much of their identities they would show.

"Their risk is their own careers. It was surprising how much some of them were willing to be visible to a certain degree," he said. Many of the participants learned about the project through the Internet and met with the photographer in locations near their base.

The LA Times goes on to interview four of the subjects about both the controversial policy and their choice to risk career jeopardy in order to participate in the project. You can check out a gallery of the very impressive images here and find details about visiting the exhibition itself here.

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