When Barbara Proud celebrated her 20th anniversary with her partner Allison in 2008, it occurred to her that what she’d accomplished was … well, a pretty big freaking deal.
“At that point, that really put us as the longest-surviving relationship in both our families — particularly in hers, where they’re on their third or fourth tries,” says Proud, a photographer based out of Wilmington, Del., and instructor at University of the Arts. “We’re the go-to couple: We take care of the babies, we take care of the dogs, we’re the executors — we’re everything to everyone. I was proud of us.”
Around this same time, Proud's photography business was losing steam as a result of the economic downturn. But, determined to not be totally defeated, she decided to make gold out of a stinker of a situation. Drawing inspiration from her anniversary (and the Propostion 8 overturn), she started reaching out to other long-lasting couples in her Philadelphia network to pose for photos, which eventually expanded to inquiries to and from LGBT couples all across the country. The product: The First Comes Love Project, a compilation endeavor that has hosted photographs of LGBT couples of high- and low-profile. (See: Her photograph of Prop. 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.)
"People need to see the real side of LGBTQ relationships, not just the gay-pride parades and rainbow flags and everything they always see in the media," Proud says. "That's also why I started doing them in black and white, and not color. I want to get rid of the rainbow 'stuff,' and make people really look at who people are."
Last week, Proud launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund the printing costs of her book. She's hoping to raise $40,000, and expects to put forward another $20,000 of her own personal funds. The campaign ends Jan. 1, with her end-game being to distribute the book by June.