I wanted to drop you a line to say how much I enjoyed meeting you and how honoured I was to be part of your amazing portfolio of wonderful inspiring gay men from around the globe.
The day you visited me was a very emotional day in my life . I thought I should share with you the tale behind this.
I had the previous evening learnt that my ex partner with whom i shared ten years of my life has lost his fight against cancer . We sadly were estranged and this news that someone I loved had fought such a tough battle without my knowing ripped me to the core.
We collect photos that remind us of the highs in our life but for me its important to document all emotions . For there is such beauty in this image even though its beneath a shroud of pain .
This helps to remind me to never let anything come between those we love , to never let anger or pain cloud our emotions . To never again loose contact with those I care about . You may cease to love in one capacity but can still offer love and support in another.
Ian, in his own words: “Maybe I was lucky but I don’t really remember there being any big deal about coming out. I was about 15 or 16 and pretty confident about stuff, I had always known I was gay and I was never any good at hiding things. I started subscribing to gay news in about 1977 (when I was 15) and this used to arrive in a brown paper envelope. I was also obsessed with gay literature and on my bookshelves there was Edmund White’s, a boy’s own story, Gore Vidal’s, city and the pillar and James Baldwin’s, Giovanni’s room to name but a few – so it was pretty obvious to anyone who cared to look and my poor mum cleaned my room in those days!!!. It was the time of punk and I was a little obsessed with the Tom Robinson Band and in 1977 or 78 they had a rising free EP out which included the song “glad to be gay”. I remember buying this in the local WH Smith (it reached nos 18 in the UK charts) and playing on repeat for hours. So I don’t think anyone in my house had any doubts!!! I recall a conversation with my mum in the kitchen of our house in Newport Gwent when I was about 16 – I guess you can call this my coming out moment but my mum told me she already knew. I think I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping for a bit of a reaction (I liked to court reaction in those days!).
I never actually had “the” conversation with my dad it was just sort of presumed really. I vaguely remember my sister being a bit upset when I told her but she was upset because I had not told her before!
So all in all pretty straightforward and not really an issue or big deal. Mind you looking back I’m amazed at how brazen I was from such a young age!!!
As anyone who has participated in the project knows, to me, as much as this project is about photographs, more important is the opportunity to sit down and have a one on one conversation with these men I’m photographing. In many respects, through these conversations, I’m trying to resolve something within myself with regards to my own identity as a gay man, as I continue the life-long journey of truly defining for me what it means to be gay.
And an issue I’ve often struggled with in this process is reconciling my personal faith with my identification as a gay man. I’ll always have a strong belief in God. And I’ll always identify as a Catholic. Even though I no longer attend mass, there is just something about my Catholic upbringing that has never left me. The few times I’ve randomly wandered into a Catholic church in New York City has always brought me comfort—the imagery of stain glass windows and the very familiar regiment of mass, to me, brings a sentimental quality and familiarity akin to looking through a childhood photo album.
As with everyone, my faith is very personal. And so when I had the opportunity to sit down with a gay Anglican priest when I was in London, I had a lot to say and a lot to ask.
This was one of those conversations that I’ll always remember for the rest of my life. Of course it was a private one, as are all these conversations I’m having for this project, but I hope you enjoy the pictures I’m able to share with you. And I hope on some level, they can bring you some level of comfort and peace, as the entire experience of meeting with Richard did for me.