An exhibition at the LGBT Center in New York entitled “Proud to Serve” explores the issues surrounding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the policy that restricts individuals from being out in the military. Jo Ann Santangelo offers the viewers a photo essay and a multimedia project, illuminating some of the few who have suffered under this policy.
The artist, whose specialty is documentary photography, likes to ride her bike around NYC snapping photos of people and things that catch her eye. For this project, she spent four weeks on a road trip of over ten thousand miles to find her subjects. The artist then spent the next two years photographing 67 LGBT military personnel. What we are left to see are stunning and deeply personal portraits.
Her show hangs in the entrance of the Center, allowing every person who enters a chance to take a peek at her work. Currently she has already had a show at the Center, Walking the Block, a series of black and white photos of the variety of characters one might find on a typical evening spent on our favorite Christopher Street.
Santangelo started taking photographs as a teenager and fostered her talent at the International Center of Photography. While in attendance, the artist was recognized with The New York Times Foundation Scholarship and interned with the famed documentary photographer Eugene Richards.
Projects like Proud to Serve can help bring more awareness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and give the repeal of the policy a voice. Many of us ‘civilians’ have no idea the real consequences of coming out in the military. Reading the text to each portrait and watching the video that accompanies the exhibition opened my eyes to the truth of their everyday existence. They are there to fight for our country and many shared the disheartening feeling of knowing if they or their loved one got seriously injured or killed, their partner would be the last to know – because on paper there would be no record of their existence.
The more their stories are told and heard by our community the faster a change can happen. She is able to capture the essence of a person in each portrait, which is an uneasy task. Jo Ann Santangelo is not only a gifted photographer but an artist who makes profound political statements.
Visit the exhibition at:
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
Proud to Serve is presented by Campbell Soady Gallery
November 11, 2010 – January 30, 2011