Two summers ago I was contacted by a lovely woman by email, in hopes of finding a photographer available to photograph her family. Her first line was: “I am hoping you are kind and have a heart and can photograph us this week, my kids, my spouse and me”. I figured it was another family on vacation who didn’t think about booking a photographer, especially during peak traffic weeks here at the beach. I wrote back to her that I had to move another session due a child client being sick and that I was happy that I had a space last minute for her. I wrote that she was lucky since I know a lot of other photographers are booked solid and her response was “some are available but they said no to me”. I wrote back and suggested that some keep dates open for a number of excuses and I was more than happy to meet her family. Her next email simply stated: “it’s because we are gay. they said so”. Wait, what? I honestly didn’t know how to respond. My heart was heavy, I was angry, I was sad, confused and embarrassed that any follow colleagues of mine would deny clients based solely on their family or relationship. I wrote to Jill and her wife and told them that I couldn’t wait to meet them and their children and not to worry about any past negativity and that we would work together to make it an amazing experience. Long story short, their session was absolutely beautiful and the love that radiated from their children to their moms, and from the moms to their children, was incredible. A wonderful family with a whole lot of love.
Last summer I was contacted by another photographer asking me if I would be available on two different dates for two different families. I told her I was and asked if it was due to her being busy and her response was “no, they are gay, I don’t want them”. I took a breather. I walked away from my keyboard and took a break before I wrote back, “I love all types of families, they will be great!”. Her reply? “Me too. but not worth the drama”. I asked what she meant and she wrote back saying how she had photographed a same-sex session the previous year and while most of the comments that people left on her post about the session were positive, the negative and nasty responses and such were too much to handle so she had to delete everything. I asked her why she wouldn’t just block the haters and she said that she wanted to keep her business running. Wow. I couldn’t imagine what on Earth could ever make me want to remove a post or not feature a family because of a few people on this planet that cannot find tolerance and love for everyone. I booked both families and when it came to the second family, I talked to the moms for a couple minutes after their photoshoot and they told me that they were so happy that I made them comfortable and let them be “them” and not awkwardly placed in uncomfortable poses. I photographed them embracing one another, hugging and smiling with their children, enjoying life and their vacation. I treated them as human beings and people in love but most of all, I treated them like every other client. Why wouldn’t I?
I sent some of my same-sex couples a questionnaire over the past season and asked them what their previous experiences with photographers were like. One mentioned that a photographer has a website showing same sex couples but told them during their inquiry that it was taken during a “workshop” and she used it for portfolio work and wasn’t comfortable “yet”. Another comment was that a couple photographers didn’t have a problem but treated them like: “she didn’t want to come to close to us”, “she didn’t let us show love” and “he told us that we could keep it clean and it would be a great experience”. Unreal right?
The reason I am writing this blog is not to shame photographers. It’s the way that people of the LGBTQ community are treated. They should not be treated any differently than a couple of the opposite sex. If you have religious reasoning behind not wanting to photograph same sex couples, then be honest and not ignorant. Do not feature this on your websites as if you are experienced when it fact it’s a lie. I have gay family members and friends and after these experiences and hearing personal stories, it’s sad that a vacation can be ruined or the need to hide that they are LGBTQ until after they book a session. If you are a photographer and reading this blog post, I just want you to think about the way we approach couples that may not be your “typical” client. They want and should be treated the same exact way. I never want a family not to be able to show their love for one another and enjoy a photography experience. I choose to photograph all families, couples, kids. Love is love. Pure and simple. I have two amazing families who I have now been photographing for several years now and they have turned into friendships. Their children are growing so fast and it’s the highlight of my summer to see them over and over again. They are strong couples, fun couples, totally in love with each other couples. I am not afraid for people not to choose me as their photographer because I photograph, post and share my beautiful LGBTQ clients. I respect everyone’s choices but if hate is posted or sent to me from any previous or potential client, I am not the right fit for them. I create photographs to last a lifetime for every single person who books me as their photographer. I want all my clients to feel beautiful, welcomed, and to have an amazing fun experience.
If you are a photographer reading this post, just know that there are so many ways to embrace and rock out a session. We have to do better! Here are some tips based on feedback I got from my clients…
A big thank you to all of my LGBTQ clients, friends and family members for their permission to ask questions, share their stories and let me post their beautiful photographs.