Same Sex Marriage Portrait Project/Future Archive: Where are they now?

Jeannie Simms

On view: December 3-19, 2015

Reception: Friday December 4, 6-9pm

Conversation: Friday December 18, 6-8pm

Over the past 6 months, Jeannie Simms found and photographed some of the first same-sex couples ever to be married in Cambridge and Massachusetts, seeking an answer to the question, “where are they now?” The portraits reflect Simms’ interest in LGBT visual and material culture, and seek to contribute to a broader future archive of images showing the transitional years of rapid social and political change for the LGBT community.

In the landmark case, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health,  the Massachusetts state appellate court held that the denial of marriage licenses to same sex couples violated provisions of the state constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equality. So it was that on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to issue same sex marriage licenses, eleven years before the 2015 US Supreme Court decision mandating same-sex marriage as a constitutional right. In a show of support, Cambridge City Hall opened its doors at midnight, and waived the 3-day waiting period to allow people to both apply and marry on the same day. Struck by the convergence of political and personal enthusiasm for this new right, and the criticisms of same sex marriage among conservatives as well as within the LGBT community itself, Simms was inspired to learn about those individuals’ current situations–those both well into, or out of, their marriages.

This small group of photos are made up of people married in Cambridge on May 17, 2004, plaintiffs of the Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, and those married in the years following the landmark decision. Subjects were offered to be photographed with anyone they wanted and in meaningful locations of their choosing.

As a national civil right, same-sex marriage is still in its infancy. Some of the first people to be married were leaders in professional communities: lawyers, activists, health care workers, therapists, social workers, professors, sustainable business owners and teachers.  Many continue to work on issues that affect or intersect with the lives of LGBT people, and are changing society through their fields.  While there is evidence of increasing acceptance for LGBT people into mainstream society, we have yet to see how LGBT people might grow or change mainstream society, and reshape politics and culture in ways that could extend well beyond marriage and family.

Queer visual culture has a historical relationship with the intimate medium of photography.  This project is one investigation among Simms’  explorations into the ways homosocial and queer communities, love and care, intersect with citizenship, migration and the law.

Please join Jeannie for a conversation with some of the subjects photographed in this exhibition, on Friday December 18, 6-8pm.


This project was made possible with support from the Cambridge Arts Council.

Press for Same Sex Marriage Portrait Project:

BBC News

“Family portraits of a ‘transitional generation'”
Dec. 16, 2015

Boston Magazine

“Jeannie Simms Exhibits Portraits of First Same-Sex Couples Married in Massachusetts”
Olga Khvan, Dec. 1, 2015