For the past ten years, photographer Jeff Sheng has made it his mission to shine a light on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans through his work. In this 99U presentation, Sheng shares Fearless, a project on “out” athletes on high school and college sports teams and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a series that shows closeted members of the armed services with their faces obstructed. “These brave men and women were serving our country, going to war, yet they couldn’t be open about who they were,” he says.
Sheng shares how important (and difficult) it was to build trust amongst his subjects, and how the tide of social change affected his work’s visibility. ”Whatever creative process, we have a responsibility to the potential of our power…It can’t just be about what brings us fame and fortune.”
About Jeff Sheng
Jeff Sheng is a photographer, artist and sociologist, whose artwork has been internationally exhibited, and has taught as a visiting professor of photography and visual studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and most recently at Harvard University in 2011. He is currently a doctoral Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Stanford University.
Between 2009-2011, his other photography series Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on over 80 closeted service members affected by the government policy known by that same name, was instrumental in providing a face to the issue as part of the repeal debate, as the photographs were seen and published in Time Magazine, Newsweek, the New York Times, CNN, NPR, the BBC, and ABC World News Tonight. A graduate of Harvard University, Jeff also holds an MFA (master of Fine Arts) in studio art from the University of California, Irvine.