Jeff Sheng

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," photography exhibition opens in Los Angeles, new photobook released

Filed By Jeff Sheng | September 15, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: David Mixner, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Jeff Sheng, Mike Almy, Patrick Murphy

Many readers will remember a series of my posts from earlier this year about my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" photography project, featuring currently serving closeted service members affected by the policy. I wanted to finally update everyone about the progress and announce the release of the second photobook, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Volume 2."

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(More information and pictures after the jump)

I first need to thank three amazing individuals who have been instrumental in the fight to repeal DADT, Congressman Patrick J. Murphy, David Mixner and Mike Almy. All of them have been incredibly generous to me and contributed their writings for the new book, and I am honored to have such noteworthy people be part of my project in some way. The other huge thank you is to the over forty service members who I photographed in 2010, allowing me into their lives and risking potential military repercussions.

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One of the major reasons I have been fairly silent on posting about the series for the last few months is because like some artists, I work in an intense vacuum when I really get into a project. I flew over 70,000 miles this past year, and wound up traveling to over 25 states to meet and photograph various closeted service members. I was also under the deadline of getting the second photobook done and the exhibition prints finished for my upcoming show, opening this Saturday in Los Angeles at Kaycee Olsen Gallery, and my hectic work schedule prevented me from posting here at regular intervals.

To make up for my absence, I will be focusing for the next few weeks on a series of retrospective posts featuring the back stories of select photographs and giving our readers an inside look on the making of the project, highlighting some of the experiences and words of the service members affected by the policy.

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Coincidentally, there seems to be a flurry of activity coming up in the next few weeks over Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so I'm very excited to finally release these new images to the public now. You can see over sixty pictures of closeted service members at my website, and if you happen to be in Los Angeles, the opening for the exhibition is this Saturday night 5:30pm-8pm, at Kaycee Olsen Gallery, and is free and open to the public. If you miss the opening, the show runs through October 23.

Finally, the new photobook can now be ordered here. Not only is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Volume 2" at 100-pages, two and a half times longer than the first Volume, it comes in an 8" x 8" softcover edition and a 12" x 12" hardcover edition. I know a few readers wanted "Volume 1" to be printed as a larger hardcover, and were willing to pay more for that option, so a larger hardcover is also now available for "Volume 1." The pricing for the books are based on the print-on-demand self-publishing cost price to get the books individually printed.

Hopefully, these images and my upcoming posts about working on this project for the last two years, can add to the ongoing debate about a repeal for DADT, and put a face to the many silent individuals who continuously serve and have to hide who they really are.

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Awesome! I really liked Volume 1 so I'll have to get this new book too. Btw, if and when DADT is repealed are there any plans to reveal the identities of those you've photographed?

Yes - I definitely plan on working on something/a follow up once DADT is finally repealed... I'm really looking forward to that day!

That last one's showing quite a bit. I know these people choose how much they're going to show... did anyone from vol 1 have any negative repercussions for participating?

On that last image... all of the service members approved their pictures... and to be honest.. they look really different from their pictures, even when you think a lot of them is showing. One of the service members from Volume 1 came out on ABC World News (Anthony Bustos), and another service member was warned by his commander about participating - I don't (And hope) no one got discharged.

I can't wait to see them, Jeff. The sneak peek you gave me a few months ago really whet my appetite.