Activities & Organizations News

Pride Portraits brings LGBT awareness to campus

After the Orlando shooting at a gay nightclub, where 49 people were killed, Pride Portraits began taking photos and sharing stories of those in the LGBT community to bring awareness. | Jennifer Gonzalez/The Cougar

In honor of National Coming Out Day, Pride Portraits came to the Student Center on Wednesday to promote awareness and representation of Houston’s LGBT community.

After the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting that killed 49 people, Pride Portraits began taking photographs and sharing individual stories of the LGBTQ individuals.

“I started this campaign outside on Tuam and Bagby.” said Eric Schell, Pride Portraits creator and photographer. “There was a paint wall that was rainbow colored, and I put on Facebook, ‘Would anyone like to come and take pride portraits,’ and about 100 people showed up.”

From there, the campaign grew rapidly. Participants told their stories and took photographs in front of a rainbow backdrop, painted by Hugo Perez. Schell typically prompts participants by asking, “What do you want the world to know about you?”

“So far, I’ve photographed around 3,000 people around the country,”  Schell said. “I’ve got a lot of great support from celebrities, which has been really awesome and fun, but the thing that I find most rewarding is finding people in communities that don’t have a place to talk about themselves.”

Last year, Pride Portraits took photographs and stories at the Gender Infinity conference at UH, where he met Jamie Gonzales, program coordinator at the UH LGBTQ Resource Center. Gonzales invited Pride Portraits to photograph all students, not just conference attendees.

“I’m hoping to just create visibility and awareness for the LGBTQIA+ community,” Gonzales said. “I don’t think everyone thinks about each individual story of the members of the community.”

While students and staff were photographed, transgender model Jessica Zyrie explained Pride Portraits’ importance to her.

“I didn’t have any faces to look up to, and whenever I did find some, it was a comfort for me,” Zyrie said. “I like to put myself out there and be a visible face for people to know that it’s OK to be yourself and to love yourself for who you are.”

Zyrie said she has witnessed people from all walks of life participate.

In a community that is often homogenized, Pride Portraits not only gives individuals a voice and a platform; it provides a community with support and role models.

“I encourage people to step outside their box and educate themselves about who we are,” Schell said. “Whether it’s sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, because they’re all things that encompass human beings.”

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