Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jeff Sheng Photography

How I got to this website is a convoluted mess of clicks from Facebook to a GLAAD blog to some news site to Jeff Sheng's website. It started because there is well timed media attention on his latest work- "Don't Ask Don't Tell." In case you aren't aware of current US events (since I do have a few International readers), you can read a brief history on Wikipedia. And from the website, a brief explanation: The policy was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton who, while campaigning for the Presidency, had promised to allow all citizens regardless of sexual orientation to serve openly in the military, a departure from the then complete ban on those who are not heterosexual. The concept was rejected by Congress in its passage of the Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993, which simply codified the existing standard set by the Defense Department in 1981. Clinton established the policy through Executive Order in December 1993. There's a lot of debate about DADT. It says that you can serve if you're gay- unless someone finds out that you're gay. You can serve your country and your fellow citizens if you're gay- but only if you never tell anyone that you are gay. Someone finds out or you tell that you even have homosexual thoughts that you don't intend to act on? Then you are discharged from service. More than 13,000 men and women have been discharged from service under DADT since it passed. President Obama ran a platform that was strong on equal rights for the gay community. One of his promises was to get rid of DADT. The gay community hasn't been too happy that there hasn't been action taken for over a year. But now it's in the spotlight. It's finally being reviewed and talked about. And there are a lot of big voices coming out against DADT, wanting it to be repealed. Including Admiral Mike Mullen: My personal belief is that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do. I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog should pretty well know where I stand on the issue. DADT needs to go. But that isn't what this blog post is about today. Jeff Sheng. I found him because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" series of photos. Pictures of military people, faces concealed, names changed... and the book includes their stories. He also has a great 3 part series called "Fearless." It's out athletes- high school and college athletes who live out loud with their athletics and don't hide their sexuality. But I'm not even going to talk about that. Instead, I encourage you to go to his website and check out the series called "Revolutions of Memory." It's a series of several locations and a unique perspective. And the one that got me is the first one he talks about on the site. Where Matthew Lay Dying Matthew Shepherd was a young man who was killed because he was gay. He was killed in 1998. Laramie, Wyoming. He was 21 years old, a college student. Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Shepard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. After admitting he was gay, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. McKinney and Henderson also discovered his address and intended to burglarize his home. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of discovery, Shepard was still alive in a coma. Shepard suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. ... He was pronounced dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998. Jeff Sheng went to Laramie. Jeff Sheng went to that field and found the spot that is believed to be the location of the crime. Jeff Sheng wanted to capture this place but in a different way than is normally seen. Typically, photos of that fence and post are taken of THAT fence post. From the POV, then, of the killers. Jeff Sheng wanted to show Matthew's perspective. Jeff Sheng wanted to see what Matthew saw as he was alone, tied to a fence post, in pain... dying. I was deeply moved by the panoramic images and by Jeff Sheng's words about the project. I hope you will be, too.

9 comments:

Eternally Distracted said...

Thank you so much for bringing light to all of this... some very important messages in your post today. I will definitely be heading over for a look at the links.

Garret of Jim and Garret said...

Thanks Liz. What a great photographer. I looked at 3 series so far.

Teacher Tom said...

Excellent post, Liz. Important message. And powerful art.

We can't continue to have one set of laws/rules that apply to straight people and another that apply to gay people.

Paul said...

Very important message. Some people just want to bring hate to those who are different. It's their life, let them do what they please.

Tracie said...

I will be checking out that link.

I agree with you DADT needs to go. As do all hate crimes.

Great message.

blueviolet said...

I'd very much like to look at that site. Thank you. It's time to be real and let people be real.

Nancy C said...

This is powerful stuff. Let these people serve, and let people love.

Karen said...

I agree DADT needs to go.

Very talented photographer.

Mary said...

Thanks for the link, Sheng's talent is brilliant. You're right, Matthew Shepherd panoramic is really moving.

Like you, I'm pretty thrilled about the pending end to DADT. Some great things were said this week and I can't wait to see the whole deck of cards come tumbling down. I tried to blog about it yesterday, actually, but had a serious FAIL on finding the right words, so I'm glad you did. I will probably put up a post sending people here to read yours.