John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

- Gay Probabilities-


In the 1940s Kinsey’s groundbreaking survey indicated that 10% of the population is gay. Research studies since then report somewhat higher or lower percentages. Nevertheless, such statistics made mental health professionals question traditional ideas about homosexuality. Can something so prevalent really be “abnormal?” Several decades ago, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official text describing the various types of psychopathology..

Empty chairs suggest humans, and yet none are seen, which may suggest that some gay people may be “invisible,” by desire or necessity, or that anyone you know could possibly be gay without your realizing it. The progression of tables and chairs extending endlessly into the distance suggests that this sexual orientation has existed throughout history and will continue to do so indefinitely. We might also experience this visual rhythm as coming directly towards us, presenting a fact we cannot deny.

As the caption states and as the image suggests, there are more gay people than many straights may realize. The diagonal lines might be viewed as an unusual orientation, or, in the eyes of some, as deviant. I prefer to think of that orientation as adding energy and life to the composition. I also like the fact that we have chairs gathered together around tables, rather than, say, a line of just chairs. We anticipate people coming together to share a meal, talk, and enjoy each others’ company, as anyone would, gay or straight.

In its original form the image was a bit too busy. In post-processing I attempted to remedy that problem by converting the photo to grayscale and then colorizing the chairs, which helped to simplify the image while distinguishing the chairs from the tables. A purple/pink seemed appropriate, as those colors are sometimes adopted by gay organizations. By creating a rainbow of colors in the foreground table, I hoped to convey that idea of a rainbow coalition, of everyone joining together, regardless of sexual orientation. It’s the one table without any place settings, open to as many visitors who wish to sit down.

This image and caption generated quite a bit of debate in flickr when I first uploaded it. Indeed, one picture can generate a thousand words..


Here are some other articles in Photographic Psychology that are related to this photo and essay:

The Big Picture of Composition
Selective Color
Symbolism: What does it mean?


homosexuality and civilization

Homosexuality and Civilization - Louis Crompton

"How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pre-Meiji Japan."

Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche