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Portraits Of 'Queer' America

Photographer Molly Landreth (right) and filmmaker Amelia Tovey at work. Courtesy of Molly Landreth hide caption

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Courtesy of Molly Landreth

Photographer Molly Landreth (right) and filmmaker Amelia Tovey at work.

Courtesy of Molly Landreth

From Jackson, Miss., to Mount Vernon, Wash., photographer Molly Landreth and filmmaker Amelia Tovey have traveled the country documenting the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Their recently launched Web documentary project, called "Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America," is a collection of short films and photographic portraits.

As Landreth explains on Etsy, she uses a large-format film camera to make these portraits that are, on the one hand, in a traditional style of portraiture, but on the other hand, quite unlike portraits that have preceded them.

Picture Show: How do you find your subjects? How do you get to them?

Molly Landreth: I find my subjects through friends and through other subjects quite often. My favorite way to find folks, though, is through MySpace and Facebook. I love doing strings of random word searches and seeing who pops up. It is so exciting when someone you've never met before and have no real connection to says that they'd like to sit for a photograph. It's like stepping out of my life for a second and totally becoming absorbed in someone else's. It is always such an adventure.

Could you talk a bit about your choice of camera/format/medium?

I love using large- and medium-format film photography because it forces me to slow down and brings a certain feeling of calm and focus to the event. Because of cost and labor, I only take about four to six shots per photo shoot, so everything is very deliberate and intentional, making the subject and I really work together to make ever image count.

Would you call these traditional portraits?

Absolutely. I love looking at the old formal portraits that hang on the walls of my grandparents' house. They are so simple and classic. I love that the subjects in them, my family from 100 years ago that I will never meet, sat for those photographs with the intention of being remembered, of leaving a trace of who they were and what their family looked like at that moment in time. That is a concept and feeling that I very much bring with me to every photo session.

What have you learned throughout the process?

I have learned that amazing things can come out of being brave. Brave in your life and brave in your voice and vision.

What's next for you?

I want to publish this body of work as a book — that has been a dream of mine for so long, and I'm working hard to make that happen. I'm also excited about my next project, which I've just started to research and photograph. The specifics are still under wraps, but it's very focused on this idea of exploring community and the region where I'm from ... the Puget Sound area, where my family settled generations ago and where I find myself returning to again and again.