by The Lit Chick.

speaking-out-coverTen years ago, photographer Rachelle Lee Smith grabbed her camera and began a photographic essay of queer youth, ages 14 to 24. Smith simply took their pictures against a white background, printed them and then asked the youth to write something about themselves in the white space.

The more than 65 portraits have since appeared and continue to appear in galleries, public universities and high schools, churches, youth centers, and large corporate offices, nationally and internationally, and have been published in magazines and aired on television. Now, they’ve become a book: Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus.

The book is a snapshot of the hopes, fears, potential, and optimism of its youth. It’s also a retrospective. Smith found the original youths and asked some of them to comment on their portraits and their then-youthful perspectives, ten years later. “I’m prouder now of being a lesbian than I was back then, and more importantly a black butch-identified lesbian,” one writes, reflecting on her portrait.

Says Smith, who raised the funds to publish the book via a grassroots campaign on Indiegogo, “Speaking OUT gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced.” Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is available on Amazon. See some of the portraits at