Creating The Pride & Joy Project

As told by Kersh Branz, Founder & Photographer of The Pride & Joy Project.

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Hello friends! 

The Pride & Joy Project started in October of 2014 as a direct response to the start of our own journey to become queer parents. It was just after Pride in the summer of 2014 that I started to really think about how disconnected the queer community felt (which was really striking especially when you live in a city like San Francisco, CA). 

After purchasing a bunch of sperm from a sperm bank we thought it would be easy to find other queer parents to befriend-- but alas, it was much more difficult to actually find & meet them.

We would see queer women & gender-nonconforming parents out in the city all the time - especially in big gayborhoods like Bernal Heights, Noe Valley, The Castro, and the Mission but we had no idea how to approach them or meet in an informal, low pressure setting. 

Spouses for life. (Me & Toby at SF City Hall, 2013).Β 

Spouses for life. (Me & Toby at SF City Hall, 2013). 

Seeing queer parents on the street (particularly queer women, transgender parents, and those who parent & exist outside the gender binary) was like spotting a unicorn in the wild. Our hearts raced & leapt for joy - but finding a way to introduce ourselves & identify our queer connection was tricky.

We wanted to avoid accidentally outing another person or misreading their gender identity or sexuality - especially in front of kids - so we would look for an opportunity to engage in conversation with them. On the rare occasion that it worked out usually it was just a passing interaction that ended with an exchange of business cards or a casual, "have a nice day" before parting ways. 

After a while we realized that these interactions, while lovely, were fleeting & didn't result in real, long term connections & friendships. By the fall of 2014 I decided that I needed to start working on building a bridge to other queer families in a way that would make a lasting impact for us & our community. 

Using my knowledge and experience as a photographer I decided to channel that energy into creating a one-of-a-kind family portrait series that would both educate and strengthen our community. Suddenly it was quite clear that The Pride & Joy Project would serve an important purpose for us & for other queer families. 

I've built the collection one family at a time - each referring me to other queer mothers* & their friends in their network. Currently, The Pride & Joy Project includes over 35 families in the Bay Area and has inspired an online community of over 17,000 from around the world, called Queer Mamas*.

Each session is personalized to fit the timing & needs of each family. We hangout, talk, share stories, and take pictures - the entire goal of the photoshoot is to have fun & to document your family in a way that's true to you. I'll take a few posed portraits here and there but the majority are candid and show the spontaneity of the moment. That authenticity & joy sets The Pride & Joy Project apart from other portrait series of the past that have painted queer parents in a negative light. 

Too often our stories are mistold, inaccurate, and portrayed in a way that is "other" or "abnormal". It is absolutely vital that we move away, step by step, from the toxicity that has plagued the queer community for decades. Years of hatred and fear have taken it's toll on how queer people, specifically queer parents have been portrayed both culturally and in the media. It is my hope that The Pride & Joy Project can change how the world perceives us as parents & people - and makes a lasting impact on how queer families are included & accepted around the world. 

In 2017 - it's been 2.5 years of meeting & photographing wonderful queer mothers* & their families. The Pride & Joy Project has been celebrated in publications around the world - on radio shows - podcasts - and in print. I'm thrilled to announce that The Pride & Joy Project will have its first gallery show from August 5th - September 17th @ GlamaRama Salon in SF. Stay tuned for more information & an official event link! 


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