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Monday, November 30, 2009

Jeff Sheng's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gay military personnel photography project


"Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009" by Jeff Sheng

Another fascinating Los Angeles Times story yesterday was about photographer Jeff Sheng's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" project. (click that link if you'd like to participate in the project)

But in the case of L.A. photographer Jeff Sheng's latest project, capturing his subjects' faces would almost certainly put their careers in jeopardy. That's because Sheng has set about to photograph U.S. military service personnel who are gay but closeted in their work lives. Titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the ongoing project consists of a series of stark, sometimes sad, portraits of U.S. soldiers who are forced to hide a part of who they are.

"I want to give an invisible community some visibility, but at the same time, to keep them invisible," said Sheng on the phone from Vancouver, where he is working on another project.

"There's already a lot of journalistic work on gay people in the military who have been discharged. My project is more about people who are still serving."

To conceal the identities of current military personnel, the photographer has used lighting and shadow effects to mask part or all of their faces. Sometimes, the subject will conceal his or her face with a hand, as in the photo above, titled "Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009." (The names and towns of the titles are fictional for the protection of identity.)

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