I just counted, and I’ve photographed five-hundred-and-fifty-five individuals so far for the Gay Men Project. Every once and awhile I like to pick out my favorite images from the thousands I’ve taken, and this time I tried to narrow it down to my top ten, but I just couldn’t. So here are my top eleven favorite images, and the stories behind them.
#11. Simon, from Montreal.
Actually, I don’t know why I love this image so much. I can’t say there is anything that really stands out to me, but I just love it. Maybe it’s his hand (which I swear was a natural gesture he made on his own) or maybe it is the fact that Simon is so incredibly handsome. I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve photographed so many people that I’m starting to forget peoples’ names, but the one thing I can always remember is the first moment I see someone. I think Simon was a bit late, and I was a bit flustered because I didn’t have any cell phone service to check on him, but then I remember he rode up on a skate board, and all I could think was “OMG this boy is so cute AND he’s riding a skate board.” Plus Simon really wants to be a dad. Whoever he ends up raising a family with will be one lucky guy.
#10. David, from New York City.
I don’t remember how I was introduced to David, but like most people from this project, I photographed him the moment I met him. And I remember David lives way uptown in New York City, like Inwood or Harlem or something. And I remember I photographed him at night. And to be honest, I remember thinking, I hope this guy doesn’t kill me. But when I met him, I don’t know if he was shy, or nervous, but he genuinely had this quiet softness to him that was really appealing. I love this picture because of that quality in him, I mean he’s obviously a strong guy with a big guitar, but there’s something quiet about him that I’m really drawn to. And I always shoot with ambient light, and everyone knows tungsten light can be really gross, but I think for this picture it works.
#09. Tom, from San Francisco.
Tom, I love Tom. If I ever move to San Francisco I hope to become better friends with Tom. If I remember correctly, Tom has this voice and personality, that just needs a podium or a loud speaker. Once again, I remember the first time I saw Tom, and it wasn’t at his apartment for the shoot. Tom was one of my last shoots in San Francisco, and I was exhausted. I had photographed like twenty guys in three days, and had walked to all the shoots. And San Francisco is a city of hills. And I was walking to Tom’s place in the Mission, I think, it was close to sunset so I was stressed that I would lose the light, and then I remember, I see Tom ride past me on his bike, like going so fast. He didn’t notice me, but I noticed him and even though I hadn’t met him, I was sure it was him. And it was. I love this picture because of the cat, the way he holds the cat, and the awkwardness of the cat’s body. And the slight rim of light along the top of Tom’s head, I love it.
#08. Michael, from New York City.
I met Michael through a classmate, and if I remember correctly, I met him briefly before I actually photographed him. And after I met him I thought, I have to photograph this person. There’s just something that I’m really drawn to in Michael, there’s this beautiful quality he has that I feel every time I see him. I love this picture because of the colors, the patterns, the texture, the light. I love just the tiny details, the cigarette, the green ash tray, the red flower in the hair. Always one of my favorites.
#07. Stephen, from New York City.
Stephen. I don’t know where to start. So I won’t. There’s no point, Stephen was such an amazing character to meet, one of those New York City jewels that lives in a rent controlled midtown apartment since forever, I really can’t describe how it felt to meet him and hear his story and experience a part of his life. It’s something that I’ll cherish for the rest of mine.
#06. Evan, from Washington D.C.
Evan is great. So young. So cute. So Republican. The one thing I’ll always remember from our conversation is what he said about being Republican and gay, how gay men judge him more for being Republican than Republicans judge him for being gay. That always stuck with me. But the reason I love this picture so much is all about the light. Beautiful light totally does it for me.
#05. Kit and Walter, from Portland, Oregon.
Walter and Kit were one of the backers from my Kickstarter, and live in my hometown so I wanted to be sure and photograph them the next time I was home. My first impression of meeting them was OH MY GOSH they live in the most beautiful home I’ve ever seen in Portland. Like, I didn’t know homes like theirs existed. They were great, and I’ll be honest, I love this picture because of Walter’s mustache. And I love the dog. And visually, I think they’re a beautifully interesting couple to look at.
#04. Morgan, from Baltimore.
This picture has always been one of my favorites. I’ve done this list a few times, and it always changes, my affections for pictures are like my affections for men, they come in and out of favor. But I think this picture is always in my top three or five. The thing is, it’s not accurate to Morgan’s personality at all. This picture is a bit brooding, and Morgan was very extroverted and friendly and a bit bubbly. So as a portrait of Morgan, to be fair, it’s quite a failure, but visually, I just love the light, the wall paper, and the reflection in the lens of Morgan’s glasses.
#03. Kevin, from Cape Town.
What can I say? I love this picture because of the leaves lol.
#02. John and JD, from Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina.
So if I were to pick one photo that sums up the project, this would be it. And if I were to pick one shoot that sums up my experience, it’d be this one. When I did my cross country road trip across the United States, I had one goal: photograph a gay guy on a horse. So when I was told of John and JD, who have a horse farm in a small, tiny, rural town in North Carolina, I was like, I have to photograph these two. So I drove about an hour out to Mt. Pleasant from Charlotte, and met these two on their small horse farm in North Carolina. Admittedly, getting the shot took a lot of effort and coordination (there was someone behind me waving a bag on a stick to get the horses’ attention) but I just remember, once I knew I had the shot, I took a pause. I stopped to actually experience the moment. As everyone knows, taking a photo can many times interrupt the rhythm of living life. Like when someone takes a thousand pictures of a sunset instead of just experiencing it in real time. Anyhow, after I was confident I got the shot I just stopped for a moment to actually experience the moment I was living. I had just left my life in New York City only a few days earlier, and there I was, standing in the middle of a huge grass field in the middle of a small town in North Carolina in the beginning of summer, at the beginning of my around the world trip, with people I had just met, and somehow my life just seemed right. The moment was so completely random, but I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
#01. Itallo, from Brasilia.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know why this is my favorite picture. My favorite picture should probably be the one of John and Jd from North Carolina because of the emotional connection I have to it, but if I’m to be honest, at the moment, this is my favorite picture from the project and it’s purely based on the visual. And it has very little to do with the half naked man. Visually, I just love this picture. I’m sure this won’t always be my favorite, but as it’s fairly recent, right now it holds the top spot in my heart. Love doesn’t always make sense, and it’s not always meant to be forever.