by Anthony Greer -
SGN Staff Writer
Gay in America, the first photobook depicting the lives of average Gay men across all 50 states, hit stores on September 27. The book was shot and assembled by Scott Pasfield.
The book contains the stories of Gay men, fathers, brothers, and friends that Pasfield photographed over the course of three years and covers a myriad of issues, ranging from family, children, marriage, ageism, racism, immigration, bullying, and most recently, DADT.
'About three years ago, I started the project for mixed reasons. I had the time on my hands, the economy had slowed down, and I needed a personal project. I've always wanted to combine photography and travel, and I knew that my dream job wouldn't just be handed to me and that I needed to go out and work that out on my own,' Pasfield said.
'I had this idea to travel to every state and photograph Gay men who were out and living their lives and try and get them to share their stories with me in hopes to make the photobook that I wish was around when I was a kid. So when I had this idea, I realized that the internet would allow me to find these men in a timely fashion, and also it would help me find men who were normally not in the spotlight, whereas I think previously finding these men would've been more of a challenge.'
Pasfield has lived in NYC for 15 years, where he has taken photographs for various magazines and TV stations. This is his first photobook.
'It seemed like a great goal to hit up every state and just to make it happen, so I started to plan out little trips and tried to cover as much ground as possible. Once I started, there was no stopping me,' Pasfield said. 'I was amazed at how much these men were able and willing to open up about their personal lives and stories to a complete stranger. It was an incredible leap of faith for them to share their stories and tell me why they thought they would be good for this project.
'Once the stories started to come in, I tried to vary the different kinds of guys as much as possible in terms of race, age, and occupation, and try to really show the great range of diversity within the Gay community. I think that the strength of the project lies in revealing that Gays are everywhere in our society, living their lives. When people start to realize that we're everywhere & I think others will be more willing to openly accept us.'
Overall, there are a total of 107 photos in Gay in America.
'I did about 140, I'd say, but there were some photos that couldn't be in the book when we reached the publishers. Others had the opportunity to back out of the book and did for various reasons. The publishers also took out about 20 shots because of the flow of the book, which was really hard. I wanted to include everybody, but for many reasons, we just couldn't.
'I knew this was my purpose, in a way. I can't tell you how many people thought I was crazy,' Pasfield laughed. 'It feels great to have the idea and go out and do it. It certainly feels great to get the recognition and such kind words from others.'
A preview of photos from Gay in America got over 500,000 views on the media/entertainment mega-blog Gawker.com. It was their most-viewed post for the month of June until it was bumped to No. 2 by Gawker's same-sex marriage bill passage celebration slideshow.
On the cover of the book is DADT repeal activist Dan Choi. Noncoincidentally, the book was released and distributed by Random House exactly one week after DADT was repealed.
'[Choi] was one of the last guys who I photographed for the book. I had always envisioned having somebody in the military being a part of the project. Two or three guys had approached me and wanted to be in the book who were in the armed forces, but they ultimately changed their minds,' Pasfield said.
'I met Dan Choi in a film festival the year before and I told him about my project and I brought up that I wanted someone from the military. I asked him to be a part of the project because it ended up being very important that I had a big-name advocate in the book.
'There are a few [lesser-known] advocates in the book who have fought for Gay rights, but no one quite as well-known as Dan. We didn't envision putting him on the cover until after the photos were taken. The publishers were looking over the photos and then approached me about putting him on the cover. When I saw that image it was pretty clear and I thought he was like a soldier for all of us, and with DADT being repealed, I thought it'd be very thought-provoking to put a soldier on the cover. I thought it was a great cover and would spark some conversation with Dan talking about growing up and why he chose to go into the military, and what made him finally take a stand and come out and fight injustice as it was.'
Including Choi's own story, Pasfield noticed that all of the stories seemed to have at least one common theme.
'These men have finally accepted themselves. That happened at a young age and very quickly for some, while it took others some time to ultimately reconcile those feelings of acceptance and how their community has responded to them. That's one of the things that I'm trying to get out there: how we fit into society at large, and that we are such a huge part of it. This book helps define that and reveal that to people. It's so important for people to be out and to share their stories and to help people understand who we are, and that's what effects change more than anything,' Pasfield said. 'It reveals how important storytelling is. & The thing that affects people who struggle with accepting homosexuality the most is whether or not they know somebody who's Gay. The more that we can share who we are with other people, the better. It helps us show that we're not so different, and I'm hoping that this book sheds a little light on that.'
Pasfield is about to go on tour for two months, where he will be visiting nearly two dozen U.S. cities to promote and present the book. He will be at Elliott Bay Book Company (1521 10th Ave.) on October 3 at 7 p.m. with a reception at the Lobby Bar at 8 p.m. afterward. He will also be in Kennewick on October 5 at 4 p.m., where he will be doing a presentation and signing at Barnes and Noble (1321 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Suite 700).
'It's a nice book to read. It's perfect for the coffee table. You can read little bits of it at a time. I'm hoping that even some straight people will read it - buying it for themselves or for their Gay brothers or fathers or sons or whoever, and while they have it, they read it a little bit. These books are for them to pick up, as well,' Pasfield said.
'I would really love to do more of this. When I was working on this I thought about doing a 'Gay in Europe' book. It would be fascinating to see all of the different cultures and see how they accept homosexuality in their own countries. I also, for completely different reasons, would want to do a 'Lesbian in America' book. That wasn't possible for this project, but in the process of doing this book I've realized that there are sometimes more stereotypes with Lesbians out there and that they'd probably want to share their stories with what it's like to be a Lesbian in America.'
For now, Pasfield is mainly concentrated on the distribution of Gay in America and the upcoming tour.
'I just hope that Gay in America makes a difference and gets into libraries and can be that book that I wish I had around when I was a kid. Times are changing and I can't wait to see where we are further on down the road and see what happens.'
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