Interview with Braden Summers
All Love is Equal. How refreshing is to experience romantic images with same sex couples at the center.
What’s your coming out story?
B.S: I came out while I was still in high school; ironically I first came out to my photo teacher who I knew was gay. It was the beginning of my senior year of high school and I never looked back.
Do you think art like yours (or representations of homosexuality more generally) would have helped your coming out process?
B.S: Absolutely, the concept of what gay meant was foreign to me as a kid, there was not a lot of exposure to gay culture in the small town that I grew up in. I believe that the more people see representations of themselves in the media, the more they feel that they belong to the world.
Where was your favourite place to shoot?
B.S: I have to say there is something about India that is incredibly inspiring; I found a connection to India that I never would have expected. Their culture is foreign, magical, and so vibrant – you can’t help but feel alive and creatively juiced at every turn.
Were you conscious of the LGBT situations in the various locations while you were shooting?
B.S: I reached out to local gay organizations in every city that I was producing work in ahead of my arrival, it was important to get an insider’s perspective (and connections) to what the gay community is like to best represent them in my work. Some organizations were more receptive to my project than others, but for the few who did reach out, their insight was incredibly helpful. That said, part of the project was to be purposefully avoidant of each cities’ current situation of how accepted gay culture is and it was to create a vision of same-sex love that seemed easy, beautiful, and accepted.
Would you consider it important for your work to reach places where LGBT people are persecuted such as Russia or Uganda?
B.S: Crucial. Positive change can only begin to happen in these countries when the media begins to portray our community and the relationships within in a positive light. The current negative reinforcement in Uganda and Russia that the LGBT community is inferior is only reinforcing the harsh mentality that has created the current stigma.
Would you like to visit other countries and extend All Love is Equal?
B.S: It would be incredible to have the opportunity to grow the series, funding is in the way of any current progression. I have a strong inclination to head to Mexico and Southeast Asia for the next set of photos.
Did anyone in particular influence your work, either other photographers stylistically or personal connections as inspiration?
B.S: I drew a lot of inspiration from some of my favourite painters when creating work; such as Kees Van Dongen, Egon Schiele, Lucien Freud and Amadeo Modigliani. Photographs I draw from are Erwin Olaf, Alex Prager, and Marilyn Minter. My boyfriend was a huge inspiration, encouraging me to explore gay relationships in the context of my work and honestly teaching me a lot about what romance can look and feel like.
You used crowd-funding for your project, how was that for you? Do you think that helped create buzz around the work before you had even had the chance to create it?
B.S: Kickstarter was a really exciting way to reach out to huge companies to help fundraise, but also to garner interest. After seeing the Kickstarter proposal, both the Advocate and Buzzfeed requested to do a follow-up article on Valentine’s Day 2014 and the work completely spread. If I hadn’t created such a buzz with the initial crowd-funding project, who knows if I would have been able to get the word out in as swift of a manner.
How has ALL LOVE IS EQUAL been received in comparison to your more mainstream work?
B.S: The work really struck a chord with a lot of people; it was something different – a new perspective, which helped the series go viral. I suppose most of my more commercial work, until this point, had mostly fallen within the realm of what is expected.
In other interviews you’ve talked of a ‘subconscious disconnection’ you experience with heterosexual imagery, do you think there is any way of overcoming this both in terms of LGBT people looking at heterosexual imagery, and heterosexuals looking at LGBT imagery?
B.S: That was the intention for the work you see in my project, the photographs strive to transcend sexual orientation and focus on romance. It is my strong belief that on a subconscious level seeing images love and beauty is relatable on a deeper level, and hopefully that subconscious connection plants a seed of acceptance into the hearts of many.
What’s next for you?
B.S: I have visions of a new portrait series in mind, I don’t want to discuss it much until I am able to execute a few of them. I’m working on developing a few commercial projects and I do hope to continue shooting for “ALL LOVE IS EQUAL!”
You can check Braden’s project “All Love is Equal” on his website:
Interview by Anne Loveday
Anne Loveday is a film student who is obsessed with questioning what culture teaches and tells us, particularly about the concept of normality.
In short, a film-loving, open-water-swimming, culture-obsessed, music addict.