Photographer prepares for cross-country trip to document how DOMA hurts military families

Last year, we introduced you to Tatjana Plitt, a photographer from Australia working on a photography project that documents gay and lesbian service members, their partners and families, and the challenges they face because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Because DOMA prohibits the United States military - and all federal institutions - from respecting lawful marriages between same-sex couples, married same-sex couples are deprived of over 1,100 protections and responsibilities that are extended to different-sex married couples, including shared health insurance, access to military base housing, and survivor benefits.  

Tatjana's portraits (See 7 of them HERE) take us inside the lives of military couples where one or both partners serve in the U.S. military. The photos take us into their bedrooms, which Tatjana chose in order to show an intimate, personal side to these soldiers and their families. She explaiend, "By welcoming viewers into the very space that has been deemed taboo and 'alternative,' these couples invite viewers to connect with them and their families and see that there are fewer differences in their love, affection, hopes, and dreams than people might imagine."

At the end of 2012, Tatjana successfully funded her Kickstarter campaign thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors. The money will fuel Tatjana's journey across the United States to reach the dozens of couples who have volunteered to lend their story and their portrait to speak out against DOMA. Ultimately, Tatjana aims to produce an exhibition and coffee table book full of over 50 portraits of loving and committed same-sex military couples with amazing stories. Her journey begins at the beginning of February in Georgia and Florida. 

Tatjana is still seeking volunteers willing to share a part of their lives with Tatjana and with the world. As we ramp up the spotlight on DOMA more and more in the next few months, before a legal challenge to DOMA will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2013, Tatjana's project will continue providing visual evidence of the ways that DOMA hurts families. If you want to volunteer to pose for Tatjana's project, CLICK HERE for her website and contact information, and get in touch! 

We caught up with Tatjana to learn more about her project as she prepares for her journey! 

Q: What's the plan for your cross-country journey to complete this project?

A: I'm basically doing one big circle. I have a couple in Savannah, Georiga, so I'm going to make my way down that way, then go to Florida. ThenI'm trekking across the South - to Louisiana and Texas - and in March I'll spend some time in California, Hawaii, and Oregon. Then I'll be going to Kentucky on my way back to the Washington, D.C. area. 

Q: Do you see ways that your project could help create the climate for a positive ruling on DOMA this spring?

A: As I go along on the trip, I'm going to be doing interviews with tehse couples - not only about how DOMA is affecting them, but also just their own stories of how they met or significant stories in their lives together. I want to put together a mini-documentary along the way, and maybe that's a piece that I could put out there during the time that the Supreme Court will be considering DOMA.

Q: How does it feel to have successfully crowd-sourced funds for your Kickstarter project? And why do you think so many people donated money?

A: It's absolutely amazing. I was totally blown away, and I'm really excited and kind of shell-shocked that people have responded so well. I think one part of it is that people are really in support of the pictures and enjoy the portraits, but maybe more than that, they're supporting the cause and voicing their support for repealing DOMA. I'm so happy that people are willing to support that - not only with words, but with their time and money.

Q: What's typically been your process for these sorts of portraits?

A: I can't always meet people face-to-face beforehand, so I usually do a Skype conversation before to break the ice and allow people to get to know me a bit. I think a lot of time with photography, it can be somewhat intimidating to be photographed. Especially since these are photos in these people's private spaces - in their bedrooms - and I want them to trust me. Basically, I'll go over to their place and set up the lights while the service members get into their uniforms. We try to do a couple of different poses and set-ups to work out what actually looks best. We try to include all of the family members in the portraits - pets, kids - and the whole process probably takes about two hours.

Q: As you meet more and more couples, do you find yourself learning more about the Defense of Marriage Act?

A: Definitely! Hearing different people's stories always shows me something new or a different aspect about how DOMA affects them. The Department of Defense aspect has surprised me - the fact that the Department of Defense can change certain things, like issuing military IDs, for example. I'm learning new things about DOMA every day. 

Q: How do these same-sex couples feel about participating in your project?

A: All of these couples are really excited. A lot of them are feeling very inspired and motivated now that so much is going on with DOMA. Now that there's so much activism around DOMA, a lot of couples have said that they really feel that this project can make a difference. They feel that putting themselves out there and standing up and having their family spotlighted is a way that they can help out and help bring down DOMA.  

For more on Tatjana's project - and to volunteer to pose for a portrait - check out her website. View seven of her completed portraits HERE, and learn more about how DOMA hurts military families at Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, our joint public education campaign with OutServe-SLDN.