UPDATED: I Took Photographs of Two Dudes Kissing, and It Was Beautiful

UPDATED: I Took Photographs of Two Dudes Kissing, and It Was Beautiful

Anthony Duron and Mark Rainwater were one of the first same-sex couples married in Indiana on June 27th, 2014 after a federal judge overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. Unfortunately, a federal appeals court put a hold on the ruling and they have been waiting in a sort of limbo ever since. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to hear the issue of gay marriage from several states, so many couples like Anthony and Mark have been waiting anxiously for vindication over the last three months. I was honored with the opportunity to take portraits of these two gentlemen and I learned a lot about love and life along the way.

UPDATED: 10/06/2014 2:18 PM CST

The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected an appeal to hear the case on same-sex marriage, which makes gay marriage officially legal now in Indiana as the Indy Star has reported, "The Supreme Court, without comment, today denied requests from Indiana and four other states to take up their appeals of federal court rulings that struck down the states' same-sex marriage bans. The denial of the five states' petitions means a federal appeals court ruling invalidating Indiana's marriage statute can take effect and a stay order that had blocked implementation of that ruling will be lifted soon, meaning county clerks will be required by federal court order to issue marriage licenses to otherwise eligible same-sex applicants, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement."

 

It seems for now the SCOTUS is leaving decisions up to the state-level of government, but I have a strong feeling that the issue of same-sex marriages for the rest of the union, and the legality of businesses denying services to gay couples on religious grounds will be heard in the not-so-distant future.

UPDATED: 10/06/2014 10:40 PM CST

Anthony and Mark were interviewed by a local newspaper. The Post-Tribune, about their thoughts and concerns after today's monumental victory. Read all about it online.

 

Some Backstory

Anthony was a guest at a wedding I shot back in 2012 and that’s the first time we briefly met. He also has quite an interest in photography, so I’ve ran into him over the last two years as well – most recently at a small “camera basics” class my friend Andrew was teaching that I stopped by to support. We’ve always been sociable and friendly and thanks to various social medias like Facebook and Instagram, I’ve been able to keep in touch with all of my clients and their friends and family who support my photography. I’m not exactly sure how, but I’m pretty confident it was something Star Wars related that Anthony posted online of he and Mark when I thought, “Oh, they’re gay… and hey, they love nerdy stuff. Cool!” Don’t get me wrong. I hadn’t just discovered the fact that there are guys out there that love other guys. I had just discovered ones that happened to obsess over the same kind of geek culture that I obsessed over: Star Wars, action figures, comic books, and all the other stuff you would expect to find at a comic book convention. Plus, both of them have beards and I'm way too into my beard... so I reached out to meet with them!

We met at my office and talked for over an hour about how they met, what their story together was, and the current standing of the legality of their marriage after the stay on the ban was issued. What a great couple! They had one of the best online dating experiences through OkCupid and knew they were a perfect match after their first date. Five years later, they just want the same rights that my girlfriend and I have. They already had a civil ceremony, but the day that they were able to legally wed after the ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional, they were first in line to make it legally official as well. It’s ridiculous that civil rights are still an issue we’re dealing with in a modern America, but I’m sure justice will prevail and this will all be in the past shortly. To help celebrate this idea, I wanted to shoot portraits of these two that showcased their unique story… and for any sense of truth, we needed to head to Mark’s favorite comic shop – Galactic Greg’s!

 

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My Approach

This was my first time photographing a same-sex couple. Sure, I’ve shot hundreds of guys and girls over the years – whether they had been models, in bands, at weddings, or in family sessions – but this was the first time I had a chance to put two guys who were in love with one another close together, and I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t nervous as in, “I’m not gay... but uh... you guys are gay,” nervous. I wanted to treat them with integrity, and because I sometimes pose my brides and grooms in submissive and dominant roles, I felt like I needed to find another strategy that wasn’t assumptive or degrading. Few things look worse in photos than uncomfortable people and I was truly worried that I would end up doing or saying something that I should have been more mindful of. I kept things pretty up-beat and light-hearted at the comic shop, but I wasn't too sure how to approach the more intimate moments I knew were coming after we left.

It turns out, as per usualy, I was an idiot. Everything I was fretting over was unnecessary. The guys are just like any other couple and I quickly discovered I just had to act in the same way that I always do with my clients. When I’m confident, they feel confident. Worrying about translating poses I do with opposite-sex couples was dumb and I think it made us all a little uneasy at first. In the end, I had two handsome guys in front of me who just happened to love one another. I posed them like I would any other man who was in love and everything just started falling into place. “Bro, stand here with your hands in your pockets and look this way. Dude, get in there like you love that guy and bring him in close to you. Now... try not to think about your grandparents making sweet love to each other.”

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Boom – I broke down some walls, got a natural laugh and we all loosened up! Now I was able to take some more serious shots, but it took me longer than it probably should have to figure this out. Lesson learned. From then on, it was lovey dovey times all around.

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Gear List & Lighting Setup

I shot everything with just one light. I do that often, unless I have a lot of time and can build up a set of lights on-location. Since the comic shop was gracious enough to let us have our way inside, I wanted to make sure we were in and out of there as quickly as possible, and without disrupting business, so I used one Canon 580 EXII speedlight bounced inside of a Westcott shoot-through umbrella. It's a compact, portable lighting system that works well inside buildings. I wasn’t planning on writing about this for an Fstoppers article, so I don’t have a pullback of this setup. Sorry. It’s pretty standard, though: one light bouncing into an umbrella, up high, slight tilt down, after I set my ambient exposure. Most of my shots inside the comic shop were as follows.

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
  • ISO: 400
  • f/stop: 3.5
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160

Outside it was only a little different. I shot a little natural light as we were close to sunset hour, but then I switched to my Einstein monolight and Photek Softlighter II 60” Brollybox, and I did happen to get a pullback while I was taking a test shot. I'll be sure to do that more often in the future.

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  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
  • ISO: 100 – 800 (as the ambient grew darker)
  • f/stop: 4.5
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160

The Wrap Up

I learned a lot about who these two awesome guys are, and I learned a lot about myself as well. It seemed like this was going to be more of a challenge than it really was. All I needed to do was be myself like normal and give my clients the same respect and confidence behind the camera that I give every other client. Once I figured that out, we all had a blast together. I'm glad I had the opportunity to shed a little light on their story and capture a bit of who they are as well. I'm really rooting them on and hoping that all of this "marriage is for one man and one woman" nonsense moves quickly behind us all. We've had to deal with some derogatory comments on the photo I shared online before this article, but it was bound to happen I guess. I'm just hoping that the majority of the people who read this, or who know Anthony and Mark, see that they're just another couple who were lucky enough to find each other, to love each other, and it's not bad. It's not wrong. It's beautiful.

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34 Comments

Zach Sutton's picture

Heads up. Editor here. While it's okay to have your own personal beliefs on the topic discussed here, it's not acceptable to be hateful or vile towards the topic discussed here. This is a post on the business of photography and interacting with your clients. If you don't agree with the subject matter, please keep that to yourself.

Hurtful comments will not be tolerated.

Zach Sutton's picture

That said, great write up on a unique engagement session, Aaron!

Aaron Brown's picture

Thanks buddy.

Kyle Ford's picture

Great work mate, and enjoyed the write up.

Aaron Brown's picture

Cheers Kyle!

Scott Mosley's picture

We recently shot one of our first few same-sex male weddings. There was so much love between these two, that after the first click all worries I had about posing evaporated.

Scott Mosley's picture

Kissing and love stuff, yes, but also did a great deal of fun action stuff

Aaron Brown's picture

Nice, brotha! Thanks for sharing. I feel 1000% more confident now. Cheers!

Lee Whitman's picture

I really like this one.

Wes Jones's picture

Nice article. A bright spot in an otherwise bad news day. Cheers.

Aaron Brown's picture

Cheers Wes!

Peter House's picture

Love is love. Well captured.

Aaron Brown's picture

Thanks Peter!

Great work. You have definitely captured their happiness.

Really nice article Zach, the shots are all fantastic, its nice when we can click with a client as well as you have here with "geek stuff" (is it geeky? or is it really damn cool because its so geeky its then cool again?)

The subject you have covered is a very sensitive one for many people and unfortunately we are not yet in a world where we can say equality is prevailing. The only one "negative" thing I have to say about the article is the title, i know as a writer you need to put an attention grabbing header but to me bringing attention to the subject draws it away from being equal. I hope that one day we dont bring attention to differences so that we are then equal.

That being said the article is a very honest story of how you worked with two clients, overcame your fears and created images they will love for a long time, all while building a relationship with them....and feeding all the technical details we all love. Nicely done sir.

W

Zach Sutton's picture

I didn't write this, but thanks :-D

Gina Proulx's picture

Love the Comic Book Store as a location!

Limor Garfinkle's picture

This article makes me so proud to be a part of this community! Those are beautifully shot images that any couple would be lucky to have. You really captured the love and the connection this couple has. Great job! And of course, congratulations to Anthony & Mark.

Justin Haugen's picture

I look forward to a time when we don't have to try and sway public opinion on what's acceptable in our society as far as social norms are concerned.

Sidenote: I really dislike the article title.

Aaron Brown's picture

I look forward as well, Justin. sorry you didn't like the title. Thanks for reading regardless.

Aaron Brown's picture

I titled this article, and wrote it in general, in response to derogatory comments made on one of their photographs I originally shared on Facebook. Im specifically addressibg those idiots with it. The idea is to say "Yeah... they're two dudes. Get over it." I understand the idea of not pointing out these are two guys for the sake of supporting the notion that this should be no big deal. But this was a big deal for Anthony and Mark, for myself, and currently as the SCOTUS decides to hear the issue of marriage equality. Thanks for the wonderful support, everyone!

Adam Sparkes's picture

Nice article, Aaron. I'm sharing this, and the reason is not because of earth-moving new information. Rather, its the very self aware sense of normality that you brought into the story. The normalization of homosexual couples is a very important component to their perception in the public, as it pertains to gaining legal equality. Wedding photographers can play a key role in this. Bravo, dude.

Aaron Brown's picture

Thanks so much Adam!

So it is OK for you to call those who don't agree or don't like it "idiots" but if they don't post positively on something they don't like - for whatever reason - you think it is hate and it gets censored.
If it wasn't homosexuals you wouldn't even write about it. Typical couple photos, nothing more.

Aaron Brown's picture

Yes, it's okay to call people idiots, or stupid, when they solely comment the word "fags" on a photo I shared online. People who don't agree with same-sex marriage are stupid, too - in my not so humble opinion - but they're not who I called out. I also called myself an idiot for trying to approach the shoot in any other way than I normally would. I call 'em how I see 'em.

I actually didn't censor the "fags" comment at all on my Facebook photo. Instead I left it to be mocked at. I wrote about it in response to the hate that was received, not only in the "fags" comment (there were more I removed as well), but in general to both Anthony and Mark, and to myself as a photographer that took photos of a homosexual couple; I wrote about it because it was topical as the SCOTUS was deciding on hearing the issue; and I wrote about it because it needed to be written about. I needed to say what I said. Also, nothing has been censored here either. Zach only warned that hurtful comments would not be tolerated.

Although those are the reasons why I shared this shoot on Fstoppers, "typical couple photos, nothing more" is exactly what we were going for in the photos themselves. Thanks for validating that. That was the exact point I made in the article you clearly didn't read. They're just two normal dudes. They happen to be in love, and now officially LEGALLY married.

David Vaughn's picture

Great story and photos! I'm glad to see photographers not shying away from these photo shoots in the fear that they won't know how to interact/pose etc... :)

Gay, married, professional photographer here. Loved this feature and the photos are so fantastic... I mean really beautiful! And while I understand the spirit in which the headline was written, it's just offensive. It just seems to frame the issue of equality and who we are as gay folks to something that makes others uncomfortable, and while I understand the process opened hearts and minds (thank god!) we are SO MUCH more than just two dudes kissing, even if you're reinforcing a point. We are just like you and everyone else, trust me on this! :)

Aaron Brown's picture

Sorry to offend, Matt. My intention was the complete opposite. Thanks for reading either way!

Lee Whitman's picture

Nice write up. As a gay man, I think you handled the subject matter well while still conveying your inner struggle to figure the shoot out. Well done.

Aaron Brown's picture

Thanks Lee! That means a lot.