Jeff Sheng

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: "Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009"

Filed By Jeff Sheng | November 17, 2009 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Jeff Sheng, photography


"Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009" is part of my newest photography project, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a series of photographs of closeted men and women in the United States military. For each image, I have asked the individual to wear their uniform, while staging the photoshoot in the bedroom or local hotel room where that person is currently stationed. The reason for this is that I am most interested in the intersections between public and private space, and the government's policing of our private spaces - the bedroom being the most representative space of this. I have purposely shot each image in a way that obscures to some degree the identity of the individuals, and the final image that is released to the public is first approved by the subject, and is in many ways, their expression of their closeted-ness and lack of identity. The name and location is also fictional: I have asked the subject to give me a first name and a location that is significant to them, but does not actually refer to the true name and location of who is in the photograph.

I am currently asking for as many participants as possible for this project, and releasing the images on The Bilerico Project as it progresses. Please e-mail me directly or contact me via my website if you would like to volunteer or have more questions about the process. My aim in this project is to use photography to create a visual record of the numerous individuals currently serving our country that are unjustly forced to hide an integral part of who they are.

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Fantastic, Jeff.
Already powerful, beautiful and sad....

Jeff, I wish I had 1/10th of the amount of talent you have. Your photos always make me feel like I'm in the room with you as you snap the shot.

Hey Bil - thank you so much for your kind words.. I never really think I have that much talent, but if I did - I always want to be making sure that I'm doing something good for our community with it. I really appreciate the support from The Bilerico Project in this -- as you probably know, I seem to be addicted to difficult photo projects.. they are very rewarding but insanely hard - hopefully I'll be able to get a lot more people to participate in this project.. thanks again for all your help!

This is an amazing idea, your work is tasteful and powerful. You're doing a great service. Thank you for what you do.

Thank you for this, Jeff, from myself and from the Transgender American Veterans Association.

This is such an interesting project.

Thanks so much for all the words of support - the biggest thing for me right now is getting enough participants which is why I'm working on all my channels right now to try and get as many people as possible for this project. The other stuff (burning off some frequent flyer miles and winding up in the randomest of cities, being creative during each photo shoot) - that's much easier... anyway, so please spread the word as much as you can! I'll be posting the pictures here on The Bilerico Project as it progresses!

I just want to chime in with how wonderful and vital I sense this project will be. I wish there was a tangible way I could contribute. But all I can do is offer wispy memories... About 5 yrs ago, a badly burned and disfigured Iraqi war vet contacted me after an article of mine was published. We exchanged emails for about 6 mos.
Poignant, heart-wrenching, disjointed emails. He was so painfully closeted, and refused to let me tell his story. I didn't press, I didn't prod, but suddenly the emails stopped. I'm pretty sure his lingering wounds killed him - either via suicide or persistent infection? And really, the freakish indignity of DADT, this indelible stain on our history as a most often noble society? It is an infection all to it's own. More than 'marriage', I think it's an issue that needs - indeed begs - to be thrust into our consciousness over and over again. I hope Bilerico will keep us all updated on this work in progress?

Damien Durbin | November 18, 2009 1:32 PM

Looks awesome. It's obvious that you inspire people...I am excited to see more!

What a wonderful idea, Jeff.