“When we’re used to seeing this kind of imagery on a global scale, it will soften the hate in people.”
Photographer Braden Summers felt frustrated with how gay relationships were often depicted in imagery, as either highly sexualized or hiding in the shadows – especially in cultures where acceptance is still a challenge.
So the winner of the Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images global #Repicture competition travelled the world for five weeks, capturing gay couples in the cities of London, Paris, Mumbai, Beirut, Johannesburg, New York City and California for his ‘All Love is Equal’ project.
“When we’re used to seeing this kind of imagery on a global scale, it will soften the hate in people,” he said, “by making them accustomed to this type of romance.”
A goal of his work is to inspire mainstream advertisers to include gay romance in their campaigns.
He hopes the results will help people to see the beauty in gay relationships and become more accepting.
“Currently, it’s still a newsworthy event when a company uses a gay couple in their advertising,” he said. “I think, in the long run, if they’re incorporated more regularly, it won’t be such a shock.”
Part of the reason he travelled to so many other countries was to show how those relationships could potentially look in places where equality is still a struggle.
“I thought it was not only important to show what romance can look like in western civilization but also in cultures around the world,” Summers said. “It was about showing this relatable image of romance, not just for western cultures where we’re much closer to reaching a sense of equality, but also for the countries that are many, many years away from seeing a sense of equality in the LGBT community.”
Summers’ highly stylized imagery featuring beautiful models may not look like everyday romance as we know it, but that is part of his point. In industries like luxury, travel and tourism where aspirational imagery is what works, Summers didn’t want to “re-invent the wheel.”
“I wanted the work to feel like it was on as high of a level as we see for most commercial images that depict romance,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to re-invent the wheel; these images work to sell different products and lifestyles, and tourism. I was using those same tools to sell the idea that gay romance is relatable.”
And what about romance in his own life?
“I am absolutely a hopeless romantic but I have high expectations. Part of the reason I create work that is ultra romantic is because I know my expectations are unrealistic, so I meet some of those needs with my work.”
The response to the project has been overwhelming, with Summers receiving messages from people to say they have been moved to tears by the photos.
Beth Wachtel, Getty Images Senior Creative Content Editor is among his supporters.
“I was stunned by the beauty of the images and moved by the subject,” she said. “When I learned he had the winning #rePicture image, I was so thrilled and excited for him and for us!”
And it seems Summers is already starting to achieve his goal, after hotel giant Marriott commissioned him to capture LGBT people for their latest campaign, “Love Travels.”Explore more images from Braden Summer’s ‘All Love is Equal’ project on Getty Images