When someone says, "I have a special gift for making people feel comfortable in front of my camera," you're inclined to disbelieve them. We've all taken awkward school photos and family portraits. But when Sarah Deragon says it, it's 100% true. 

Deragon is the mastermind behind The Identity Project, a black-and-white photo series that documents individuals within the LGBTQ community. "Since we are constantly bombarded with online images these days, I'm so happy that the project has continued to stand out and build momentum vs. being a 'thing' for about a month and then forgotten about," she says. "With photos, we get like, two seconds to make an impression. The viewer is either moved by the image or not."

It would be hard not to be moved by Deragon's work: The comfort level she speaks of with her subjects is totally apparent on their faces and in their body language. Portrait subjects are highly involved in her process: Once they have a conversation about identity, Sarah sets forth on a quick shoot and then send back a grid of photos to choose from. She always gives her participants  final say on the portrait and presents them with one black-and-white and one color shot after everything is finished.

Through her work,  Deragon turns the concept of labels and stereotyping on its head, while exposing viewers to a new perspective than they might find all on their own. "Because I'm queer, I see these people every day—but you may not," she says. "You don't need a fancy camera to start an art project that's related to activism; you just need to start some sort of exploration. Find out what makes you mad or what you think is unjust in this world and dig in—start asking yourself questions about why you feel this way and contemplate if other people feel that way, too." Wise words from an incredible woman. And the photos themselves? They very nearly say it all. 

 





Sarah Deragon has plans to visit other American cities once she raises the funds, and wants to create a documentary around the project, possibly including more back stories from participants. See all the images here and check out the Instagram so you can be a part of The Identity Project, too. She owns and runs Portraits to the People with her wife in San Francisco. We at BUST are getting into it--why don't you?

published May 4, 2015

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