It was July of 2006 when I took my very first photo of a little girl named Jackie with one of her moms, who was then nameless to me. Busy for years doing photography chronicling the AIDS crisis, I was a latecomer to the marriage equality movement, but this was my beginning.
News photography — barring a Pulitzer — is fleeting. “First Comes Love,” by B Proud, is forever.
Unquestionably a stunning book, “First Comes Love” is so much more. It is a gift. The answer to Momma’s worries that we have no permanence, no one “to take care” of us. A gift for Aunt Margaret in Peoria to show her friends that she not only loves us, but a whole world of nieces and nephews out there, as well. Put it on her coffee table, for all of us. It’s possibly a gift for some of our best old college chums as well, just because they love us, too.
B Proud chronicles the beauty and burdens of the fight for LGBT families
Laws do not change hearts and minds. We saw that nearly a decade after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision as George Wallace barred the doors at the University of Alabama and when white Chicagoans rose up in rage at Martin Luther King’s open housing campaign.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures change hearts and minds.
Proud’s gorgeous images come with a few beautifully written words, as well. Time was spent creating this work — far more time than simply finding a suitable light reading and environmental set-up. These lovely portraits are enhanced by a true connection between the photographer and her subjects.
Over the years, Proud has given us some beloved activists like Barbara Gittings and Bishop Gene Robinson, as well as the Prop 8 plaintiffs and Edie Windsor. Her work is always a welcome reminder of how we have arrived at this place.
And beyond the marquee names, we are invited to meet new faces. Happy secure couples and families, as well as some struggling against the insecurities of illness or possible deportation. All of them introduced with respect and delicacy.
When I returned to work at my Wall Street job after a weekend at the 1993 LGBT March on Washington — having said I was visiting friends in Maryland — I found a copy of an Anna Quinlan column face down on my desk. “The Power of One” was about knowing one gay person and because of that accepting all of them. It was written for the occasion. Our occasion. The past few years have been an entirely different journey than that of the ‘90s. It has been nothing short of whirlwind.
“First Comes Love” is a book each of us will find personally important — likely for different reasons. But all of our lives have been affected by the changes in how our relationships are viewed by the society we live in. Now is our time to share the power of two — and three and four and more — with those who love us and understand the importance of our freedom but may not fully appreciate that everyone doesn’t. Proud’s book is the perfect vehicle to spread the word.
Leng Lim, who shares his life with Home Nguyen, says it best in “First Comes Love”: “Relationships hold together because they contribute to the community and therefore the community needs to acknowledge what two people are trying to do together. It’s a community effort.”
Jackie Marino Thomas is no longer a little girl. She is a beautiful young woman. Her activist mom Cathy is anything but nameless. With her other mom and Cathy’s spouse Sheila, the three make an iconic family portrait for marriage equality. I am forever grateful to have been drawn into the fight by them and to see it so beautifully represented by B Proud — her real name, by the way!
FIRST COMES LOVE | By B Proud | Foreword by Edie Windsor | $50 | 148 pages | Available at firstcomeslove.org