e v o l v e | e v l o v e

Life, Love, Social IssuesShannon Reed


Models Sarah Julian and Allison Cloud

This is a piece I wrote for the Winter 2011-2012 issue of DeVelo Magazine
(they did end up running all of the images):


Beneath the skin and past the muscle, tissue and bone is the beat – beat – beating of your heart.  A heart wrapped in layers of you;  a heart that neither sees nor hears, but rather feels its way blindly through your life – quietly, and not always gently - leading and pulling you this way and that -  and then there’s the rest of the world telling you what to think, how to feel – who to love. 

When approached to photograph a spread for the November issue of DeVelo, I let some ideas marinate a bit before a clear concept revealed itself.  What came to me was not anything necessarily earth-shattering or death-defying; nothing outrageous or over-the-top – in fact, nothing crazy at all - just a story about attraction:  Between two women.

Depending on our cultural norms and mores and our engrained beliefs as individuals, it seems that we have a difficult time seeing eye to eye on just about anything these days.  I happen to be a very proud supporter and champion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community and, while there is quite often fear and reluctance to be outspoken about any issue surrounding same-sex relationships, it’s not a subject matter about which I feel any compunction whatsoever to stay silent.  My mind is simply unable to wrap itself around the fact that there are citizens of this country – living under the same Constitution – who are denied basic civil and human rights because they happen to love another person of the same gender.  I fail to understand the violation of human rights which occurs when people are driven by their own inner-demons and fear to bully, beat up, or kill another human being because somewhere along the line, someone taught them that it was okay to hate those different from themselves.  

Whether or not we’re making any progress is debatable because an entire community is still forced to live in the shadows and in fear.  Fear of losing their jobs, their rights, their friends, their families – maybe even in fear of losing their lives.  Until politicians and religious leaders stop perpetuating vitriol and until we, as individuals, take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, the intolerance will certainly continue.   

Our world is suspended in a delicate balance and we’re certainly feeling the collective impact of a deeply troubled economy, an increasingly fragile ecosystem, and the ongoing stressors associated with our occupations of other countries.  It seems like now would be a good time for us to come together and start valuing and protecting humanity because we probably share much more in common than we realize.  When someone gets knocked down, we should be climbing over one another to pick him up.  When someone is getting bullied, we must to find a way to stop it.  When we see a teenager crying out for help, we should be standing in line to love and support her.  And when we see two people in love, we should celebrate the fact that they have somehow managed to find one another.

When I shared the concept for the following spread, everyone was excited and enthusiastic; the team came together, locations were secured, and the scenes were photographed.  Everything went as scheduled – no surprises, no problems.  When I delivered the images a few days later, however, I sensed the first twinges of reticence.  I understand that the reaction didn’t come from a personal place as the story was no doubt being viewed through the lens of society – through the lens of advertisers and of you, the reader, and that you might somehow take offense.   

I bristled a bit and wondered how these particular images garnered trepidation.  After all, everyone is fully-clothed and there’s very little touching; it all seemed quite tame, really.  The intent of the piece from the beginning is that we’re attracted to who we’re attracted to; our hearts, blind to skin color body type and gender, lead us to certain people to whom we feel an undeniable connection.         

An open exchange of thoughts was shared and a compromise was reached:  The spread would run to a certain point in the storyline and then continue online.  Would I have preferred the whole story to unfold in these pages?  Of course.  However, I’m incredibly proud of the publisher and editor of this magazine for pushing through both real and perceived barriers and allowing the light to shine on a subject matter which is typically locked in a closet; I’m also exceedingly grateful to have been given the opportunity to share this experience in my own words.

Our hearts are blind when it comes to love – it would be wonderful if our minds were as well.