Artist Tatjana Plitt is currently photographing same-sex couples in the military to honor the soldiers who served in silence under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to raise awareness of how the Defense of Marriage Act continues to discriminate against the very soldiers who are putting their lives at risk to protect the freedoms and rights of their country.
The USA is at a historic crossroads in relation to the civil rights of one crucial group of citizens: gay soldiers. A new photography project by artist Tatjana Plitt highlights the political paradox the country now faces: The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has allowed gay soldiers to serve openly in the military for the first time in US history, however gay soldiers still face discrimination from the very country they are fighting to protect, due to Department of Defense (DoD) policies & regulations and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA is a federal law that prevents the military from recognizing same-sex marriage. This means that even if a gay soldier is lawfully married, their spouse is not entitled to many of the protections, benefits, support, and rights their heterosexual counterparts automatically receive from the military.
Art and photography have always been powerful agents of cultural change. Through telling the stories of these courageous, dedicated service members, Tatjana is creating an opportunity for the wider community and decision makers to connect with same-sex military couples on a personal level. The couples are depicted in the intimacy of their homes, usually in their bedrooms. Sexuality is respected as private in the lives of other citizens, but has been politicized and made a cause for discrimination for same-sex couples. By welcoming viewers into the controversial space that has been deemed taboo and ‘alternative,’ these couples invite viewers to connect with them & their families, and to see that there are fewer differences in their love, affection, hopes, and dreams, than people might imagine.
The portraits pay homage to the historic imagery of 17th century marriage & family portraits. The function of a marriage portrait was to legitimize a couples’ marriage, as the formal and legal structures we have today did not yet exist. These paintings also served to celebrate the nobility, respectability and wealth of this new family union. In the same way, Tatjana’s portraits celebrate the respectability and validity of these same-sex couples and provide a contemporary take on the notion of traditional marriage and family.
Tatjana has photographed nine couples so far and aims to photograph at least 50 couples by July 2013. She is based in the Washington DC area and has received requests from same-sex military couples throughout the US who would like to participate in her project. The ultimate goal for the project is a touring exhibition around the US and a book of the final series. The exhibitions will be a platform to advocate for marriage equality by inviting key decision makers in the government and military to come see these proud military families and be encouraged to take the necessary steps to repeal DOMA and make changes to the discriminatory policies within the DoD.
Tatjana has launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to enable her to travel the US photographing and telling the stories of same-sex military couples from all over the country. Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform for creative projects, which means that anybody can help make a project happen, with small or large donations, and they receive rewards directly produced from the project itself. Tatjana’s Kickstarter campaign runs until 24th December 2012.
To see her and four of the couples she’s already photographed talk about the project, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1289221135/gay-warriors-portraits-of-same-sex-military-couple
ABOUT TATJANA PLITT
Tatjana is a portraitist from Australia who has been working as an artist and photographer since 2004. Her portraits reside at the intersection between documentary and staged photography, exploring how cultural narratives impact the lived experience, emotions, desires, relationships and identities of her subjects.
Tatjana has exhibited her work at the Chelsea Art Museum New York, the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney Art Fair, Australian Photographers Gallery, Stills Gallery, both the Queensland and Perth Centers for Photography and has won art awards and commendations for her work. She taught fine art photography at the Centre for Contemporary Photography and Photography Studies College in Melbourne.