Q&A: ‘Love is Love’ co-creator on the release of beautiful photography book

For Shalem Matthew and Mitch Kitter, the past three years have been a window into the love and commitment that same-sex couples nationwide - in every U.S. state - share. Through their photography project "Love is Love," they've toured the country, flying from their home in Alaska to the mainland and capturing beautiful photos of same-sex couples in dozens of states, from Tennessee to New Mexico to Wisconsin. When they started the project back in 2012, largely with photographs from couples in Alaska, only a handful of states allowed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and now, of course, same-sex couples can marry nationwide. And in this time, the men even had their own wedding - and are now legally respected in their state. 

The Supreme Court ruling striking down marriage bans nationwide on June 26 was perfectly timed with the release of Love is Love, the photo book compilation of Mitch and Shalem's national roadtrip to catalog photos of same-sex couples. The book features dozens of full-page photographs and stories of same-sex couples included in the project. Love is Love is a beautiful celebration of love, an affirmation of people who have committed their lives to each other, a reminder that the nationwide discussion over the freedom to marry involved real people, and a loud, strong, compelling - and simple - declaration: love is love.

"The Love is Love Project began in the summer of 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska as a simple project to photograph local LGBTQ couples in response to prejudice some Alaska couples faced," Mitch and Shalem write in the introduction to their book. "The huge success of the initial project has grown into a nation-wide project, photographing couples in almost every state, showing that love is love one story at a time."

You can buy Love is Love, the book, and support Mitch and Shalem's great work, here. And below, read our Q&A with Mitch Kitter, co-creator of Love is Love, and see some of the great photos from the project. 

Freedom to Marry: You've been working on this project for so long. How does it feel to hold the published copy of the book version in your hands? 

Mitch Kitter: It was so cool to have all of the images together and finished in the book. On the road, you are meeting each couple day to day and are having so much fun photographing them, but you don't realize how large the collection is all together. Seeing them all together was really beautiful, to see them printed.

Freedom to Marry: The Love is Love project has spanned several years, including the recent victory-filled years of the marriage fight. What has it been like to watch the country change while working on your project? 

Mitch: It's so interesting how fast these feelings have changed and the law has changed. When we started the project, there was marriage equality in just eight states, and basically when the book came out, the Supreme Court ruling came and we have marriage everywhere. Even going from the 8 or 9 to the 35 in such a short amount of time [in October 2014] was huge.

Freedom to Marry: What has your experience been like getting to know the families who you've photographed? 

Mitch: It's been so cool to watch these couples grow in their relationships and grow in their families over the past few years. Now, four of the couples have had babies since they were photographed, and it's so cute to see these families growing and be recognized by the law for their relationship. It's been great to see that happening. It's great to see the commitment and longevity of the relationships that we photographed.

Freedom to Marry: What do you think are the next steps for the LGBT movement? 

Mitch: We still have a ways to go with non-discrimination protections. That's an area we would love to see change. This project humanizes the LGBT community and allows people to connect to the story. When you stop and get to know a single person and get to build a relationship with hat person, it can change your perspective. We would like to help continue forward, to share the stories of these couples and individuals in the future so that workplace equality can be the next step. We've had the opportunity to photograph so many great couples, but there's also a time to document the transgender community. Transgender individuals and families are an area where we could continue to document and photograph.

Freedom to Marry: And what's next for the Love is Love project?

Mitch: Eventually, we'd like to get to all 50 states. We'll be pursuing a grant or a shorter Kickstarter campaign. We have fourteen states left to get to, so it may be a project for 2016. It's like we'll be documenting this time before, during, and following a national marriage ruling. Just ten years ago, people barely thought this would be possible, so now we have this first generation of same-sex couples able to get married, and it's important to document those stories and the love that they share for each other.

Get your copy of the Love is Love book here!