Nine photos of LGBTQ couples to be displayed in lobby.
By Kim Hogstrom
Photos by Eric Edward Schell
In honor of Pride Month, nine photo portraits of Houston LGBTQ couples will be on display June 8–25 in the historic Art Deco lobby of Houston City Hall.
Mayor Sylvester Turner told OutSmart in a statement that he is “thrilled” to host an exhibit from Pride Portraits, a Houston-based nonprofit, for a second consecutive year.
“The exhibit will give visitors an opportunity to see that love is love, and that ours is a city that embraces diversity and inclusion,” Turner said.
“When I created the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board [in 2016], I said our support is never-ending. In Houston, we embrace love and inclusion. The art exhibit will go a long way to showcase positive images and strengthen relationships across communities.”
The photographs are the work of Eric Edward Schell.
“Last year’s portraits were of LGBTQ individuals, and were so well received that we asked if we could do it again, but with couples this time,” Schell says.
Schell’s Pride Portraits are dedicated to representing the LGBTQ community and its allies, one photograph and one story at a time. The portraits include statements from the subjects, describing their reasons for “being visible.”
Schell says he firmly believes that by helping LGBTQ people to be seen, heard, and understood by the broader population, Pride Portraits is promoting the humanization of a group that often suffers prejudice, discrimination, and worse.
In the two years since launching Pride Portraits, Schell has amassed a collection featuring more than 3,000 LGBTQ people and allies. While some are celebrities, most are everyday people.
Schell says this year’s exhibit includes couples representing all nationalities, backgrounds, ages, and challenges.
“Some have children, which highlights the fact that LGBTQ issues affect entire families,” he says. “Some of the subjects are married, some are not, but they are all deeply dedicated to their partners. The more our community is visible, the more we will make things change.”
Schell is also partnering with Pride Houston this year on a project called #DearPride.
“Eric’s talent amazes me,” says Jeremy Fain, secretary for Pride Houston. “In a short time, he has created a stunning collection that’s having a real positive impact. I am sure his movement will continue to grow and influence the American conversation on the national level.”
Last year, the Pride Portraits were supposed to be hung in the tunnel in the basement that leads from City Hall to the annex across the street. However, they were so striking that members of the LGBTQ Advisory Board requested that they be moved to the lobby, and the city obliged.
Andrea Segovia, who identifies as bisexual, and her transgender male partner, Emmett Schelling, are among the couples who will be featured in this year’s exhibit.
“I love this city,” says Segovia, who grew up in San Antonio and moved to Houston six years ago. “It is so diverse and welcoming. We both want to honor Houston’s dedication to inclusion.”
The exhibit is timely given that the City remains caught up in a four-year legal battle over same-sex benefits.
After former mayor Annise Parker extended benefits to the same-sex spouses of City employees in 2013, anti-LGBTQ activists sued the city. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court’s decision saying that same-sex spouses are entitled to the benefits, and ordered a trial court to reconsider the case.
Below are eight of the portraits that will be featured in the exhibit.
This article appears in the June 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.