States of Union

Photo By: Alix Smith
Photo By: Alix Smith

In light of Illinois’ recent triumph regarding same-sex marriage, and the continuing fight for equal rights for all people in our country regardless of gender or sexual -orientation, Alix Smith’s project “States of Union” seems to be particularly relevant. Smith photographs portraits of same-sex families (which her website defines as “as few as two individuals who are in a committed relationship and live as a social unit. These units may include pets and may have biological, fostered, or adopted children.”) These portraits create transgressive images in a variety of ways. The first is by combatting stereotypes. In a short documentary with In The Life Media, Smith discusses the problems with gay representation in the media. She argues that her portraits are an attempt to dispel stereotypes and to help people embrace who they are by portraying images of everyday people in everyday situations, instead of highly exaggerated media images. The second way these portraits are transgressive is through their reference to classical portraiture. Smith, in collaboration with the family she is photographing, composes the images to resemble classic portraits. On her website Smith claims that her project is a way for same-sex couples to reclaim their legacy within the historical culture of portraiture. This combination of creating images of everyday people, and situating them in the context of the culture of portraiture, allows for the creation of very complex, transgressive and beautiful images.


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