French Photographer Fights Homophobia With 'Imaginary Couples'

French Photographer Fights Homophobia With 'Imaginary Couples'

Seeking to break down barriers and stereotypes and create allies, French Photographer Olivier Ciappa has created a remarkably intriguing series called "Imaginary Couples." The results are quite thought-provoking.

"Imaginary Couples" brings celebrities together to pose as same-sex couples and families. Upset by stereotypes and looking to create both relatable images of famous people in same-sex relationships and allies in the LGBTQIA community, OIivier Ciappa's series is impressive both for its intimate, natural portraits and its unique nature. By showing celebrities of whom people already have strong, preconceived images in relationships that often garner negative stereotypes, Ciappa hopes to rewire the thinking surrounding those types of relationships. The series' consistent aesthetic strongly unites the different couples in a single message. Stars such as Eva Longoria have already posed for the series. Ciappa notes:

A few years ago, gay marriage in France drew a totally unexpected negative backlash. Millions of people marched with banners saying frightening sentences like, 'France needs babies, not homosexuals.' I talked to a lot of these people to understand them. That’s how I realized that a homophobic person is often similar to a racist, often not very open-minded. The problem is that they have absolutely no knowledge of what a gay family is truly like. I heard some of them saying on TV the worst clichés, such as two gay men with babies would have sex orgies in front of their kids or would dress with feathers to bring their kids to school. To me, the unknown leads to fear and unfortunately, fear leads to worse fantasies.

Currently, real couples and gay families are so rare in the media, movies, TV, or talk shows. There are more than before, but unfortunately, it is just a drop of water compared to the hundreds of heterosexual couples we see every day. So, I decided to take these photos myself and show what, in my eyes, a gay couple and gay family look like. Having these pictures everywhere, on building facades in a city and in the media, will hopefully make people see them. The more the uneducated see these pictures, the more it will be engraved in their memory and will slowly erase the fantasies they invented themselves from their lack of knowledge. I call this 'educate the retina.'

After strong international response and success, Ciappa is bringing the project to the United States this year. Be sure to follow him on Facebook to keep up with the project!

All images used with permission of Olivier Ciappa.

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Lucia Gulick's picture

"Educate the retina," indeed!
These are wonderful photos, made all the more lovely by the fact that those in them appear so natural and at ease. Ciappa seems to have a real gift for working with his subjects!

So in an effort to combat "stereotypes" several people stand in representation of a whole and in an effort to articulate this cause there's that one word used over and over that places a whole into one category. No matter which side you fall on, you can educate the retina, but beware of tunnel vision.

Tony Coelho's picture

"So, I decided to take these photos myself and show what, in my eyes, a gay couple and gay family look like."

How about photographing real life gay couples to get this point across? That would be representation in it's natural and best form. As a gay man, this irks me.

I agree.

But sadly, using famous people in fake couples reaches further than genuine couples.

It's a sad fact that a famous person speaks louder than a regular one.

Michael Comeau's picture

As a straight man, it irks me.

Dan Ostergren's picture

As a gay man, I think it's interesting. If these actors are straight, then it makes me feel a little more at ease. I admit, I often have a prejudice against straight men in particular where I often assume that me simply being gay makes them uncomfortable when I am around them, so seeing straight men and even women taking part in this makes me just a little less prejudice.

Just my personal view on it though.

Tony Coelho's picture

Well they're nice portraits. I'll give him that. :)

David Vaughn's picture

Where's the gimmick in that?

Anonymous's picture

I don't understand why having considered an issue and determined my thoughts and feelings about it, someone else can decide I'm close minded and don't understand what gay relationships are all about. Worse, I'm labeled as homophobic which is the furthest thing from the truth. I know a few homosexuals and am not the least bit afraid of them.
Some people inaccurately label homosexuals and so "open minded" people...mislabel those same people!?

David Vaughn's picture

The suffix -phobia can mean either fear or aversion/disdain.

A person can be hydrophobic, which means they have a fear of water. An oil is also hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. It has a chemical aversion to water.

In the same way, a person can be fearful of homosexuals (though that's rare I imagine), and they can also have an aversion to homosexuality.

Anonymous's picture

The denotation is fear. The second use is metaphorical. I think the intended meaning, in this case, is clear.

I HATE mayonnaise. I can't stand to even watch someone else eat it. If I see someone eating it on a sandwich and oozing out the sides, I feel physically ill. While I'm certainly averse to it, I would never describe myself as mayo-phobic.

I can't speak for anyone else but, I have no aversion to homosexuals but I DO have an aversion to PDAs. The photos, above, only serve to define homosexuals by a particular behavior that most probably wouldn't engage in (publicly). Far better, as I've commented before, to focus on our commonality rather than differences.

David Vaughn's picture

Just look at a dictionary.

They aren't in public.

Unless you attend some unusual communal bath where everyone uses claw foot tubs.

Anonymous's picture

Sorry this is so late. I don't come here often.
The photos are in public. I don't take a shit (why do they say "take" when you actually leave it?) in public and I don't want any photos out there either.

David Vaughn's picture

But you take a shit in your own home. Right next to your bathtub and outside your bedroom (presumably).

The photos were not taken in public, and there is no implication that they were.

If you equate "public act" to "publicly shown", (in this case, acts done in the privacy of a home shown publicly on the Internet) then I don't understand how you're able to look at any ads anywhere without being offended by all the PDA content.

Anonymous's picture

I think "offended" may be too strong a term but I don't really like to see that stuff either. Maybe it's an artifact from my Catholic upbringing. :-/
I'm getting better, though. I gave up Catholicism for lent! ;-)

This is just devolving into pure propaganda now to push the mores of a group that is less than 3% of the population.

Anonymous's picture

It kinda reminds me of movies where heterosexual actors/actresses play homosexuals in an effort to make them seem more mainstream. I understand their reasoning but don't think it really helps. Much more useful to experience actual homosexuals engaged in everyday activities; that is to say, going to the store, walking the dog, cutting the grass, etc. I see no benefit in trying to get people to accept specific behavior rather than accepting people, regardless of what they do behind closed doors.

Robin Browne's picture

I book marked this site for information on photography.

Jeff McCollough's picture

There's a secondary agenda it looks like.

David Vaughn's picture

The site has no obligation to produce what you want. The content is free

"This article pertaining to photography isn't about stuff that I want to read, therefore it's not about photography at all."


dale clark's picture

So if these white actors were in "blackface" to to help break down stereotypes and barriers to the African American community, would people find this impressive and wonderful? I would say most would find it appalling.

Dave Kavanagh's picture

Although I'd imagine there was no harm intended, it does seem pretty insensitive to use straight people to "act" as if they were in a loving gay relationship. Surely theres no shortage of actual gay couples in loving relationships that could have done this without a need for people to play a role.

Anonymous's picture

Probably fewer than you think and certainly more than I think. :-)

Dave Kavanagh's picture

Well I personally know quite a few and I've no particular involvement in the gay community. It could easily have done with gay couples in loving relationships, but I also get the celebrity angle they were trying here may reach a wider audience.

Anonymous's picture

I could counter your experiences with mine but neither are relevant. Also, you'll note that I admitted my guess was too low and tried to lighten the mood. Why so serious?

Dan Ostergren's picture

Interesting idea. Personally I like it.