Photographer Kevin Truong travels the hemispheres in search of what it means to be a gay male worldwide. His impressive digital archive (including videos you can find on Prism) features stunning portraiture along with interviews of gay men across the globe and their life experiences, often in their own language (with translations.) Through The Gay Men Project you really get to experience these men’s lives and get a true sense of the triumphs, difficulties, successes, and painful moments of what it means to be them.
Read ahead to learn more about the man behind the camera in a Q&A with Kevin Truong.
What inspired you to start The Gay Men's Project?
I'll always tell the story of when I came out to my mom, this 56-year-old Vietnamese woman. I remember telling her I was gay, and she just had this look on her face. She looked genuinely confused, and later she told me she was trying to picture if I was going to look different. Like if I was going to wear a dress, because she had no reference points beyond the stereotypes. So I always say, I'm doing this project in part for my mom, to show people like her a glimpse into the very many different experiences of gay men.
How many countries have you traveled to to work on this project?
Is there still a place you are dying to go to and if so, where is it?
I've gone to every continent except Antarctica. I always say I want to go to Antarctica to take a self portrait, and then the project will be done.
How do you find people to interview?
I use a lot of methods. First I start with my own personal network. Then I'll reach out to different nonprofits that work with the LGBTQ community. I'll also use dating apps and social media. For example, and I'll go on Instagram and search #GayPrideCapeTown to see people that are willing to be openly gay and share it online, and I'll approach them through that. Sometimes when asking someone more prominent, like a politician, I'll simply write them an e-mail.
Do you have a favorite subject, and if so why?
I have a lot. But I tend to have a special place in my heart for the couples who have been together for a long time. I photographed a couple in Denmark who had been together for 33 years, a couple in Brussels 40 years, and a couple in Zurich 59 years!
Do you stay in contact with the men that you photograph/interview?
Yes, I've made some close friends through the project.
Going into someone's home and traveling to an unknown place you don't know very well can be a little uncomfortable for some. Have you ever had any experiences where you felt uncomfortable and how did you challenge that?
It's very true! Actually, to be honest, it can be a bit unsafe! But I can honestly say, I've photographed over 700 people, most of whom I had never met before photographing them, and maybe only once or twice did I feel a bit uncomfortable. I remember I was in Paris once, and I was photographing this guy who lived about 45 minutes outside the city, so he offered to pick me up and drive me to his town. So he did, and I had this moment in his car where I was thinking, "I could absolutely get murdered right now." It was funny, because I only speak a little French, and him a little English, but the shoot went great. He even ended up making chocolate cake for lunch. I just have to go with my gut.
Do you have any advice for those who would like to start a blog or website featuring their work?
The best advice I can say is do work that you want to do, and that you're interested in, and let it find its audience. If you keep at it, and you show a passion for it, I guarantee it will happen. I've been doing the project for about six years, and the blog for four. It didn't happen overnight, but the audience came.
What are your plans and hopes for the future of The Gay Men Project?
That's what I'm trying to figure out at the moment! I definitely need to evolve the project, I just need to figure out the next step that makes the most sense. My dream has always been for the project to be a beautiful art book, it's just a matter of figuring when it makes to most sense to purse that.
To see Kevin’s Truong’s digital archive, please visit thegaymenproject.com