For At Home with Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America, Massachusetts-based photographer Sage Sohier captures quiet moments in the domestic lives of homosexual families between 1986 and 1988, during the later years of the AIDS epidemic and at the beginning of a newly emerging gay rights movement.
In the late 1970s, Sohier discovered that her father, who had separated from her mother when she was a young child, was gay. The revelation drove her explore his world more intimately by interviewing and photographing gay and lesbian friends and acquaintances within their private homes. Soon, she branched out into gay clubs and pride marches, building a wide network of couples who wanted to be photographed and interviewed for the project. She traveled throughout the country, posting ads for subjects in local gay newsletters.
As the federal and state governments continued to neglect the spread of HIV/AIDS and uphold discriminatory laws, Sohier’s photographs celebrate the everyday joys family dinners, soft kisses, and lazy Sunday afternoons. Throughout this normalcy, however, cuts the knowledge of the war that raged beyond the private sanctuary of the home. In 1986 alone, 11,932 people would die from AIDS; in 1987, that number rose to 16,908.
Looking back at these images, Sohier is struck by the courage that welled within her subjects. For them, sharing simple domestic scenes was a potent act of defiance in a world that demanded their silence. When she had completed the project, she shared the portraits with her father and his partner Lee as a way of “[coming] out for him,” of acknowledging that she understood.
All images © Sage Sohier