This photographer challenged the stigmatisation and marginalisation of same-sex relationships with these striking images of true love
For a country like America, which has only just begun to recognise same-sex marriage, it’s jarring to think what kind of stigma generations of same-sex couples endured when it came to relationships.
Last year, American photographer Sage Sohier’s At Home With Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America lifted the lid on the 80s gay community through intimate photographs and candid interviews detailing diverse lives. A book that is intrinsically linked to her own personal life, growing up with an often absent father after her parents split, Sohier writes in the foreword that she initially blamed herself for this but was later ‘intrigued and relieved’ to find out that her father was gay, after a cousin saw him out dancing with a young man.
While creating At Home, Sohier realised that she was subconciously processing these feelings through her work with same-sex couples. “It had taken me almost halfway into the project to realise that I had been inspired to a great extent by my lifelong curiosity about my father and more recent curiosity about his lifestyle,” she writes in the book.
“It was the beginning of a turning point, and more and more gay and lesbian couples wanted to be seen, wanted their relationships to be recognised and valued” – Sage Sohier
“I was interested in how, as a culture, we weren’t used to looking at two men touching, and was struck by the visual novelty yet total ordinariness of these same-sex relationships. The visual ambiguity of same-sex relationships also intrigued me: were these sisters or friends or lovers or a mother and daughter?”
Featuring portraits of couples in the comfort of their homes – all the trappings of family present; pets, children, furniture – Sohier reached out to friends and placed adverts in local gay newspapers when travelling in order to garner subjects. She recalls, “It was the beginning of a turning point, and more and more gay and lesbian couples wanted to be seen, wanted their relationships to be recognised and valued.”
Sohier also interviewed each couple and publishes the edited transcripts at the book’s end to give more insight. Finding herself fascinated with each couple’s ‘private love’ and courage to be documented in an age that saw homosexuality as a wrong rather than something ordinary and everyday, she says, “People in my father’s generation had grown up feeling that being openly gay was just not an acceptable option. In my generation that began to change, and I was grateful to be witness to it.”
At Home With Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America – published by Spotted Books – is available now