My project is as much about reading as it is about writing ... all portraits are a form of self-portrait, and this [project] is very much the autobiography of one gay reader.
My memory of gathering these portraits are of a distinctly physical nature, of getting me, my knapsack of film and equipment, and my tripod from one destination to another.
I recall weather too and precise meteorological conditions. The heat, humidity, and wafting of a small fan in Holly Hughes's New York City apartment. Heavy rain and sudden deep puddles en route to poet/artist Joe Brainard. The morass of snow and slush I had to navigate to reach David Leavitt by bicycle and Leslea Newman by train. The aftershocks I waited out in Los Angeles before tripping the shutter with my cable release.
Sometimes I am asked what being gay or lesbian has to do with being a writer. I make the assumption that a book issues from the whole person. That person may include what is being relegated to the background, to an obscure corner, or even suppressed. Of course, for most of the writers whom I have photographed, being lesbian or gay or bisexual was right up there in the forefront - on the big screen. It is often the source from which the writer draws character and event, language and image. It weaves itself around the themes of family, identity, spirituality, history and politics, sex, love, gender, and death.
Particular Voices is a self-portrait, an autobiography, a journey; it is also a collaboration. By and large, the subjects of these photographs met me halfway - more than halfway. Everyone sat with full knowledge of the nature of the project.
For a while now, the entire enterprise of traditional portrait photography has been called into question. No doubt it is true that there is a problematic relationship between a picture and "real" knowledge. The photographer hovers somewhere between the effort to see clearly and the projection of his or her personality. A portrait embodies both our will to know and the limits of our knowledge.
Nevertheless, an impulse to pay attention, to point out, and to record persists. Furthermore, there continues to be, even in the face of all this uneasiness about the portrait process, a desire to be seen, to be known, to be counted.
Photography is par excellence a medium expressive of our mortality, holding up, as it does, one time for the contemplation of another time. This motif infuses all portrait photography with a special poignancy. It is my wish that tomorrow, when a viewer looks into the eyes of the subjects of these pictures, he or she will say in a spirit of wonder, "These people were here; like me, they lived and breathed." So too will the portraits " respond, "We were here; we existed. This is how we were."