In a three-hour conversation on March 16th, 2014 in Quito, Ecuador, I told my parents “I’m gay.” Accompanied by my sisters, I documented the event in the experimental photography project “Unveiled.”
In the planning process, the reality of Unveiled both excited and unnerved me. At 28, the possibility of rejection by my conservative Catholic, Ecuadorian parents, was one of many potential risks. My parents needed to be comfortable. I wanted to document natural reactions.
I needed to desensitize them to cameras. Much preparation was in order.
So… I prepared.
I photographed them cooking, brushing their teeth, shaving, smoking, and watching soap operas. I photographed them walking, tying their shoes, waking up, working in the office. I photographed my mother doing her nails.
The preparation for the project, surprisingly, plays an integral role in the actual project: coming out to my family at a dinner table, with three cameras, each shooting every five seconds.
The finished product provides the viewer a series of images, each telling a different story of the family they portray, the way those members interact, and ultimately, a photographer Unveiled.
“At one o’clock, all five of us were together. I realised it had to happen then or never. I could tell that my sisters were almost as nervous as I was. I positioned them according to my carefully drawn plan. It felt surreal as they sat down.
With everyone in position, I went to check the three cameras. I programmed them to go off every five seconds, which was more difficult than it should have been because my hands were beginning to shake with nerves. The shutters started going off and I put on some background music just to muffle out the sound the shutters were making.
I took my seat at the head of the table. I felt my heart pounding. I felt their eyes on me. I noticed that my parents were uncharacteristically nervous too. My dad was wearing his serious face; it was that look that had always made me want to run in the other direction when I was a little girl. He was expecting something serious, but clearly had no idea what.
As I started talking, I found it hard to maintain eye contact with anybody at the table. Even over the music, I could hear the sounds the camera shutters made every time they captured a new photograph. I hoped they weren’t too distracting.
I told my parents that there was something I hadn’t been able to tell them before. They didn’t move an inch. In fact, they barely seemed to be breathing. They just kept staring at me. The expression on their faces was tense and worried. I could feel their uneasy anticipation. The shutters keep clicking.
My eyes moved to look at the ceiling as I mouthed the words. ‘Since I was five years old I have known there was something different about me.’ It took me a while to be able to say the next words. I looked down at the table and took a deep breath.
As I exhaled, I finally said the words: ‘I’m gay.’”
How long the words hung there in the silence I couldn’t tell you, but I knew I couldn’t just leave them hanging there, so at some point I carried on explaining, trying to show my parents that there was much more to this revelation than just my sexuality.
The hardships have been overwhelming, like feeling different from everybody else from so early on, the suffering and the secrets. Coming to accept myself has been a life-long battle and I have endured a lot of pain in silence for too many years. After going through a long process of self-acceptance, I have reached a point where I am happy to be who I am and I want you to love me for who I am. That is, the real me.’
My parents didn’t react immediately, but I could feel their eyes on me. I took a deep breath and I forced myself to look at them. There was a stillness in their eyes. I could no longer hold back the tears. I could no longer hear the shutters. I could no longer hear the music. Everything was blurry. Everything was tears.
And then, through the blur, voices reached out to me. ‘We don’t care. ‘We love you.’ My mum and dad broke their stillness as one; their tears matched my own. Their hands reached for mine. My mum’s eyes were filled with tears. She just kept repeating, ‘I don’t care, I don’t care.’ I could barely comprehend what was happening.
I was in a state of shock. Where was the anger? I collapsed onto the table, my head on my folded arms, sobbing. I felt their hands on my head, comforting me the way they so often had to ease me through the discomforts of childhood. Finally, when I looked up at them I saw that they were smiling at me through their tears. My sisters, tissues to their eyes, were also overcome with emotion; they couldn’t believe what had just transpired either.
I had been incredibly touched by personal stories. Photographers who turn the camera onto themselves. I knew I wanted to do something similar. “Upon researching an idea I wanted to work on I found a book called Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs. I was taken by the many lovely pictures done by various female artists, expressing their sexuality through photography. I knew I wanted to do something similar. Something that would be close to my heart.
I dismissed that Idea because it seemed too crazy. But that thought would not leave me alone. I had never had any intention to come out before. I was convinced I probably would have never done it. But the idea of capturing it photographs it made it all of a sudden appealing. I like storytelling, and I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to tell one. That really gave me the push I needed.
There was a lot of planning and research to technically achieve the moment. I initially studied dinner movie scenes to see how the camera was positioned and to study compositions. I did prior tests in studios, with a table and cameras. I took exact measurements of the table and how far the camera should be. There is a detailed description of this in my ‘making of’ section of my website. Please visit!