Jeff Sheng

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Volume 1," is done

Filed By Jeff Sheng | January 20, 2010 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Jeff Sheng, military, photography

Projectors, I'm completely excited to announce that I finished the first volume of my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," photobook series. I approved the final proofs last weekend with my printers (incidentally on MLK's 81st birthday), and preview copies for the Press and media are being printed right now, with an online presale to the public next week, with shipping starting Feb. 1. I decided to publish my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" photo series in volumes every 2-3 months.

20091114-DADT-Bilerico-Kenneth.jpg

Stay tuned to Bilerico for more details about all of this, including a contest to win a free copy.

In the meantime, I wanted to finally release to the public the last image in Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Volume 1: "Glynn and Celine, Fort Worth, Texas, 2009." It's after the jump with more info about the book.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Volume 1, is the first ever published photobook featuring the portraits of closeted men and women currently serving in the United States military and affected by the DADT policy banning the LGBT community from openly serving. It features twenty portraits from 17 closeted service members currently in the military, some of whom are now back in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The book is 40 pages long and in full color, and will be $30, but available for students, those in the military, and those with financial hardship for just $25. The book will be available for pre-sale next week on my website, as the project is completely self-funded and self-published.

I apologize to the readers that I haven't been posting the pictures to Bilerico as the project has been progressing like I had promised - a big reason is that I have been working non-stop on getting the first book out before Obama's State of the Union address next week (the deadline I set for myself). I had to fly over 30,000 miles for the photo shoots in Volume 1, gaining the trust of 17 closeted soldiers, and taking the pictures in almost every region of the US: the South, the Midwest, the mid-Atlantic, the West Coast and New England.

I am also halfway through shooting Volume 2 right now, and will be in Hawaii this weekend and Chicago the following weekend, continuing the project and adding to Volume 2. My goal is to have at least 100 service members photographed by August.

20091220-DADT-Bilerico-Celine.jpg

For more information about the project, please visit my website - jeffsheng.com.


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I'm sure you've stated it before and I just missed it, but could you please tell us again what portion of the book's proceeds are going to groups directly fighting for the end of DADT such as Servicemembers United or SLDN?

Thank you.

Hey Michael, thanks for your question.

The project wasn't sponsored by any group or grant - I put all the costs on my personal credit cards (flights, travel, lodging, photo expenses, publishing costs). My first concern is to pay back my debt, which is now in the tens of thousands, which I think is similar though to many Americans in today's economy - but I have been an artist and activist for the last ten years, and I survive from my public school teaching job, and I am most concerned with making compelling work that moves the public. I'm not in this to make any money.

I have been in close contact with SLDN who are excited to use the book for their repeal efforts.. they are more than happy that an individual artist and activist has taken this project on so they wouldn't have to front any of the money, but now have a tool to help move the public towards our efforts. In fact, the reason I worked so hard the last few months is that SLDN asked if there was any way for me to publish the first photographs into a book by January to help add to the repeal effort debate this year.

Truthfully, I would love to give away the books for free, but I need to eat at the end of the day, and to be able to continue the project for the next year. In the last five years of working as an LGBT artist who makes work to progress our equality, I've received no grants or donor funding for my work... and have learned to make ends meet cause I love what I do. If I can one day pay off the debt, I would gladly donate books to these organizations you mention.

Thank you for the question so i could clarify things for the readers.

-- Jeff

Hey Jeff!

Glad to hear Volume 1 is ready! Looking forward to this weekend! :)

Good response, Jeff, and thank you for your hard work to help get this ridiculous policy overturned.

Jeff,

Congratulations! I look forward to purchasing a copy as soon as it is available.

I know you're sending me a review copy. I can't wait. These photos are beautiful and eerie at the same time.

Jeff,
I'm excited about this. I can't wait to see Volume 1.

What you and I should do is discuss how you can include trans service members in any upcoming volume. Major organizations leave us out on purpose, but that doesn't mean we aren't affected on DADT as well.