When New York portrait photographer Scott Pasfield found work slowing down heading into the recession, he decided it was a great time to chronicle the diversity in the gay community. “Gay in America” features 140 portraits of gay men from all 50 states with their personal stories. Pasfield shared his inspiration with dot429.
What inspired you to create this book?
I wanted to make a book that I wished existed when I was a kid. One that showed, as a gay man, my options were limitless, that I could live anywhere and be anything I wanted. I think that I would have learned to love and truly accept myself earlier if I had access to one. When the economy tanked in 2008, I found myself with less work and more times on my hands, and a realization that it was possible. Once I started, I never looked back.
What did you expect to find? Did anything surprise you along the way? What, if anything, challenged your original vision?
I expected to find the same diversity that exists in any sampling of the population. And I was not let down. The men surprised me with their honesty and candor. To open up to a stranger with such personal stories always impressed me.
It took a very special person to be in this book. They really had to believe in me. I think that when some of the young men I photographed went back into the closet, and opted not to be in the book, that really surprised me.
Which stories inspired you the most?
Every story in the book inspired me in one or another. But those stories that involved great love and loss, really affected me. Some of the men tragically passed away after our shoots, which makes including them all the more special. Their stories are forever preserved in the book, making it a very special tribute to them. I am honored to have been able to do that.
Who is your biggest influence?
Many of the photographers that I was lucky enough to work for or learn from each had a tremendous impact on me. I worked for Robert Whitman for years before venturing out on my own and in many ways, he treated me like a son. I was able to help my father die gracefully at home because of him. I also met my partner Nick because of him. I’m not sure the book would be here today if it were not for him. I am forever grateful.
What are you doing next?
I would love to do a companion book to this, “Lesbian in America.” I have caught a lot of flack for not including women in this book and titling it as we did. But I have always felt they deserved a book of their own to truly understand what it means to be a lesbian in this country. I think there are even more stereotypes attached to lesbians that need to be blown open. Whether a gay man can do that book is the question. I think having completed this book WILL make it possible. I feel a responsibility to at least try.