By: Gail Obenreder
“Through artistic expression, I aim to continue to foster change.”
Activist and photographer B. Proud has deep roots in the First State. The artist was born in Wilmington but grew up with parents and 2 siblings in New Castle, where “my ancestors since the 1600s are buried in the Immanuel on the Green churchyard.” Throughout a long career, Proud has worked in commercial photography all over the country. Prior to 2008, her artistic work consisted of “quirky snippets of life, portraiture, and intimate still life studies of botanicals” exhibited both in here America and abroad.
However, over the past thirteen years, Proud’s artistry has increasingly and passionately been focused on documenting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. The initial project, begun at the height of the fight for marriage equality, celebrated long-term relationships – couples who had been living together as married for many years – in black-and-white portraiture. But in 2016, Proud began to focus specifically on transgender and gender nonconforming couples and families nationwide, “with the images now rendered in color.” The subjects of these photographs are encouraged to choose a meaningful location, and Proud works to capture “a tender moment that illustrates the ‘normalcy’ of a community long misunderstood, mistreated, and victimized.”
This work has taken the photographer to 24 states and has resulted in portraits of 70 couples, work which she submitted for the Division’s Fellowship application. But the drive for artistry was born early, stemming from the encouragement of her family. Proud’s older sister exposed her to the arts, encouraging her to take classes at the Delaware Art Museum, and her aunt and uncle were painters who helped the young artist with composition and perspective. A teacher in higher education for the past 20 years (at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts), Proud is inspired both by her portraiture subjects and by Allison, her wife of 34 years, who provides “encouragement for me to be the very best version of myself.”
To balance the increasing emotional import and continuing expansion of this photographic work, Proud takes comfort in her pets, “obsessed” with her two dogs who “always make me smile.” Also a lover of food and wine, she was for a while a members of the First State Bailliage of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a world-wide society of wine connoisseurs.
Proud finds the freelance life to be challenging: “Photography is a costly profession [her photographs are very large] and the technology is ever-changing.” So the Division funding will enable her not only to continue but to expand her artistic practice. Now that the strictures of the pandemic are lifted and she is able to travel and be in proximity with subjects, there are several exhibitions forthcoming that require printing and framing, as well as work on a potential upcoming book. The Masters Fellowship Award will enable Proud to continue “celebrating a community long deserving of understanding, respect, and basic human rights.”Fellowship Home
Related Topics: art, arts grants, B. Proud, delaware division of the arts, Delaware Individual Artist Fellowship, grants for artists, individual artist fellowship, Master Fellowship, photographer, photography