‘Redefining the Family Photo’ at the Bridge starts Pride Month festivities

The Daily Progress (Click for Link)

One couple sits casually in an outdoor setting; between them, their daughter is hugging the family dog. Families of loyal friends cheer other couples outside the courthouse on long-awaited and hastily planned wedding days. Happy tears sparkle at private marriage ceremonies; hot tears of grief and anger flow for dancers and bystanders gunned down at a gay nightclub.

“Redefining the Family Photo,” which can be seen at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, traces diverse bonding moments between people linked by love, blood, marriage, adversity and shared struggles. An opening reception is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Photographers Eze Amos, Guillermo Ubilla, Christian DeBaun, Sarah Cramer Shields, Jeff Cornejo, Jacob Canon and Keith Alan Sprouse are represented in the show. Over the years, they’ve captured different facets of life in Charlottesville’s LGBTQ community.

Charlottesville Pride Community Network, or Cville Pride, is launching this year’s Pride Month activities with the exhibit.

Amy-Sarah Marshall, Cville Pride’s president, said she was touched to see photos of her wife and children and images of treasured friends who’ve become family over the years.

“It was very emotional for me, and I didn’t realize how much it would be,” she said. The exhibit captures “moments that are so historic and yet so personal,” she said.

Some photos depict raw reactions to the June 12, 2016, deaths of 49 people and wounding of 53 others in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Others show the joy of couples clutching marriage licenses and tying the knot after same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia in October 2014.

“It’s amazing to me that our local community has shown up in ways I’ve never expected,” Marshall said. “We’re living in a time when there’s so much discord. This is such a contrast. This is a picture of people coming together.”

The loving support of friends and allies has special significance for members of the LGBTQ community who were rejected by their biological families after coming out as gay. Over time, they’ve built their own families of people who care about them.

“Seeing the joy in these diverse groups of people, it refreshed my soul,” Marshall said. “It gave me hope. There’s goodness in this community.”

Seeing the exhibit’s photos together can bring home the value of embracing not only biological and chosen families, but also parts of one’s own soul that have been fragmented or forgotten over the years in the fight for acceptance.

“The lesson for me as a human being is not just inclusion of the other, but inclusion of all of the self,” Marshall said.

Alan Goffinski, director of the Bridge, said the venue can offer a comfortable, welcoming setting for exploring ideas of difference and connectedness that can be stirred by the photographs.

“From my perspective, I think that, for a lot of people, while LGBTQ has become a little bit more accepted and understood and less stigmatized, there’s still a lot of understanding that can be gleaned from exposing yourself to people who are different from you,” Goffinski said.

“We really believe that the Bridge is a place that can be like a front porch for the Charlottesville community. In that regard, we feel it’s a really good venue for running into your neighbors.”

Goffinski said the exhibit combines excellent photography with strong sentiment.

“They’re really tapping into something meaningful and powerful with the family photos,” Goffinski said.

“People are people, and love is love.”

Plan ahead for a photo and zine workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. June 11, also at the Bridge. Ubilla, an illustrator as well as a photographer, will work with LGBTQ youths ages 12 to 18, allies and friends on visual storytelling techniques.

Also planned for Pride Month is “A Midsummer Night’s Pride” on June 23. The event is a silent auction fundraiser for the Cville Pride Festival and Pride Week events. It’s free, but reservations are required.