You know how politicians say “some of their best friends” are gay and you don’t believe them? It’s because there is no way they can actually feel so close to someone and vote against their equality. That basic truth can be applied to anyone, no matter what your profession, class or other identity. If you know someone who is part of the LGBTQ community, how can you look into their eyes and tell them they are less than?
This is the idea behind iO Tillett Wright‘s Self-Evident Truths. Self-Evident is a photographic exhibition of portraits featuring anyone who does not identify as 100 percent straight. The aim is to reach people who vote against equality and show them that their neighbors, friends, co-workers, children and peers are who they are voting against.
“I felt like the problem was that people felt they didn’t know any gay people and the stuff didn’t apply to them. So I wanted to just be like ‘Look at these people, look at their faces. They look just like you. They look like the people sitting next to you,’” iO said. “It’s impossible for you to deny their rights if you look into their eyes because they are human beings just like you.”
So far, iO has taken hundreds of portraits of out citizens in New York City and is taking the project on the road to California this week. With the help of a Kickstarter fundraiser and HRC’s sponsorship, she’s going to tour 29 different states to include as many people as she can.
“In theory, Self-Evident isn’t a queer campaign,” iO said, “It’s a human campaign. It’s trying to bridge the gap between the idea that there are people and there are gay people; there are just people. It’s not about what anybody wears or how different their haircut is. It’s about the sameness of human beings.”
The great part about the project is how it will reach this goal. Besides photographic exhibitions of the final project, iO said she is working on a documentary of the project that could work for film or TV as well as a grand-scale street art project.
“A part of the website we’re in development is you’re going to be able to order a kit, an exhibition kit for wherever you are in the world where we will send you however many hundreds of photos and you can mount an exhibition in your town and bring people in to talk about the issues at hand,” iO said. “In addition, you’ll be able to order as many of these large scale posters as you want — they are 36 x 48 I believe. When you wheat paste 10 to 15 giant faces in the center of let’s say Oklahoma City and some of them are marines and some of them are bankers and they are faces of people that you’re totally used to and then the press comes and asks you what the hell you’re doing then you get to pitch your whole spiel and when people are confronted with it and find out what it is, they’ll say ‘What? That army sergeant is gay? No way!’”
Besides the everyday LGBTQ people iO has involved in Self-Evident, there are also some famous faces such as Tegan Quin, JD Samson, model Kelly Kopen and Bianca Casady of CoCoRosie.
“Those people just happen to be my friends, but I think it’s important to represent that people of prominence are proud of themselves, too,” iO said. “…So it’s not like ‘Look at all these celebrities we have involved.’ It’s like ‘Look at these people who have something to risk, in theory.’ There’s this kind of myth that if you come out as gay in Hollywood your career is going to be completely f—ed. And I”m hoping to move toward shattering that that people don’t really care and come what may they are going to be who they are.”
Some of the celebrities’ faces are on T-Shirts you can buy at the HRC’s website and every shirt purchased sees $5 sent directly to Self-Evident Truths. HRC has been a sponsor from the very beginning of the project and iO said the organization brings a legitimacy to what she’s doing. Not that she needs it. Her photography can be in the New York Times magazine, New York and several other publications and galleries. She’s a contributing blogger to T, the T Magazine blog, a model and an actor who has appeared in several films and an episode of Sex and the City.
The reason why Self-Evident works so well is because the portraits are not only beautiful but telling. The focus is not on finding the queer within someone, but the prideful expressions of those involved. Shot in black and white with every photo a little different from the rest, iO’s work is something to be carefully considered. And that’s why even small photos that people tack up on their refrigerators are conversation starters. The same will happen with the large-scale portraits, the T-shirts, and any other facet of the project.
“I’m just a kid in New York. My editor’s just a kid from Australia,” iO said, “and we saw something was unjust and we went out and did something about it. … And you don’t have to start really, really big. You don’t have to start trying to change the world. But if you see something that is not right, just go out and do something about it on whatever scale it is.”
To find out when Self-Evident Truths is coming to a town near you, visit selfevidentproject.com.