The Out List: Photos from Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's New HBO Documentary
Jun 5, 2013
When Proposition 8 passed in California in November of 2008, eliminating the right for same-sex couples to marry, Americans were up in arms. Undeterred by the ruling, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, photographer and director of The Black List and The Latino List, and interviewer Sam McConnell decided to make a documentary on various figures from the gay community. “When we started, we were calling the project ‘Generation 8,’ which was a real strong reference to the post–Proposition 8 generation,” Greenfield-Sanders recalled. “We started to interview people and we felt it would be limiting to be just about marriage equality; there are so many other issues.” The Out List, which will be released on HBO on June 27—the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots—tackles marriage equality, the coming-out process, stereotypes, and what it means to be gay in America today. Vanity Fair takes a look at a selection of Greenfield-Sanders’s powerful portraits of the people who shared their experience for the movie.
“I came to New York when I was 18, to go to Columbia, and I had a lot of gay friends in New York—it was a year after Stonewall. For me, [having gay friends] was always very normal,” says Greenfield-Sanders, remembering New York in the 1970s. But life was different for many Americans, growing up in the far reaches of America. For the film, Greenfield-Sanders and McConnell interviewed people from a variety of professions, ages, and ethnicities—including the actress Ellen DeGeneres, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, former N.F.L. player Wade Davis, and actor Neil Patrick Harris. Through their personal stories and experiences, The Out List investigates moments of struggle and acceptance; there are recollections of coming out to families and meditations on the collective experience of the L.G.B.T. community today. For many, religion is intertwined in their storytelling. “I think there is so much anti-gay rhetoric that is coming from the religious organizations that when people who are religious can find some way to turn it around, it’s so helpful to them,” says Greenfield-Sanders. As comedian Wanda Sykes explains, “Instead of doing [what Jesus says] not to do, I try to live on what He says to do—to love.” After an hour-long interview with each person, Greenfield-Sanders photographed striking portraits, framing them comfortably in their pose, “almost,” he says, “like [they are] at a therapist.”