Images from "FAMILY: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America," by Nancy Andrews. Published in 1994 by HarperCollinsPublishers and exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Copyright 1994 by Nancy Andrews ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Must have written permission for any use.

FAMILY

A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America

Family-portrait-gay-lesbian-america-cover

New York Times Review, 1994: "In the tradition of this country's great documentary photographers, Nancy Andrews, a photographer at The Washington Post, illuminates a part of American culture too often hidden from most people's view. Ms. Andrews's sensitive, stirring collection of 70 black-and-white photographs with accompanying oral histories, FAMILY: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America (HarperSanFrancisco, paper, $25), is an important record of 20th-century gay life and a joy to read..." more

The early '90s were different time for gays and lesbians 

It's hard to believe it's been more than 20 years since "FAMILY: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America" was published by HarperCollinsPublishers.

Back in the '90s if you were under 30 you didn't know older gay people,  much less someone like Ruth Ellis who was 93 or Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero who had been a couple for 63 years.  Most gay people were INVISIBLE.  

But, that was changing, as we were all changing.  This book was a very personal journey -- I had only recently realized I was gay and I felt alone. I wanted to find others like me, and share that with the world. In the process I felt a duty to reflect the diversity of our world so that many people would be able to find people like themselves.  

The challenge for me was to find people willing to be photographed as gay for a BOOK. 

Here are just a few of the images and stories, and you are welcome to read my thoughts about the journey, but do keep mind the year was 1993.  

Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero had been together 63 years by the time I photographed them in 1993. By then, Bruhs was stricken with Alzheimer's,  but still had the devotion of his partner Gean. They were the oldest couple I was able to photograph for the book. Read the full excerpt of Gean and Bruhs

Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero had been together 63 years by the time I photographed them in 1993. By then, Bruhs was stricken with Alzheimer's,  but still had the devotion of his partner Gean. They were the oldest couple I was able to photograph for the book. Read the full excerpt of Gean and Bruhs

Oklahoman T.J. Smith was photographed in 1992 at a gay rodeo. 

Oklahoman T.J. Smith was photographed in 1992 at a gay rodeo. 

At the age of 27, Lorelei Holness was named the "Prom Queen" at a 1991 alternative prom for adults who never had the opportunity to go to their own high school prom with the true date of their choice.

At the age of 27, Lorelei Holness was named the "Prom Queen" at a 1991 alternative prom for adults who never had the opportunity to go to their own high school prom with the true date of their choice.

Sean Nhan and Howard Kwong were part of a gay youth group for Asian Americans called "In the Gap."

Sean Nhan and Howard Kwong were part of a gay youth group for Asian Americans called "In the Gap."

Mary Courtland, of Waldo County, Maine was kicked out of the convent for kissing another nun. She's really only known other gays and lesbians in the last 2o years of her life, and now depends on the gay community for rides to the doctor or grocery store.

Mary Courtland, of Waldo County, Maine was kicked out of the convent for kissing another nun. She's really only known other gays and lesbians in the last 2o years of her life, and now depends on the gay community for rides to the doctor or grocery store.

In 1993 there were only two openly gay members of Congress: Barney Frank and Gerry Studds.

In 1993 there were only two openly gay members of Congress: Barney Frank and Gerry Studds.

Can anything really be more American than an Elvis impersonator? I found two lesbian Elvi in 1993. This is Leigh Crow in her San Francisco apartment, the other Elvis was found in Mississippi.

Can anything really be more American than an Elvis impersonator? I found two lesbian Elvi in 1993. This is Leigh Crow in her San Francisco apartment, the other Elvis was found in Mississippi.

Cleve Jones changed the way we mourned those we lost from AIDS, changing us all in the process too. He was photographed at the sewing machine at the headquarters for "The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt" in 1993.  

Cleve Jones changed the way we mourned those we lost from AIDS, changing us all in the process too. He was photographed at the sewing machine at the headquarters for "The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt" in 1993.

 

John Blansett and his mother, Ann,  have lunch together every day. They were photographed in 1993 in in Okolona, Mississippi.  

John Blansett and his mother, Ann,  have lunch together every day. They were photographed in 1993 in in Okolona, Mississippi.

 

Saxophonists Ruben Estrada and Lynda Chen were among the 140 members of the Lesbian and Gay Bands of America to perform at the Inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Saxophonists Ruben Estrada and Lynda Chen were among the 140 members of the Lesbian and Gay Bands of America to perform at the Inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

I asked everyone I photographed, "What do you want people to see when they see your portrait?" It was Detroiter Charles Gervin who answered beautifully and captured my drive for doing this book, "When they look at my picture, I want them to see themselves."

I asked everyone I photographed, "What do you want people to see when they see your portrait?" It was Detroiter Charles Gervin who answered beautifully and captured my drive for doing this book, "When they look at my picture, I want them to see themselves."


The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

And, much to my surprise the exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the summer of 1994 was extended due to popularity.

And, much to my surprise the exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the summer of 1994 was extended due to popularity.

Love the guy on crutches.

Love the guy on crutches.