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Click here to help publish Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus on Indiegogo!

Rachelle Lee Smith is an award winning, nationally and internationally shown and published photographer. She has spent the majority of her photographic career capturing images with a passion to share experiences. Rachelle’s work in Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus combines her passions for activism and photography to tell the stories of, and provide a rare insight into, the ever evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows of queer youth. Off the streets and into the studio, portraits are presented without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. The images are strengthened by the handwritten text that serves as a voice of a diverse group of youth ages 14 to 24 identifying as LGBTQ (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning).

Rachelle Lee Smith has had the fortunate experience to have this body of work be the first solo show at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) headquarters and be exhibited at the first Federal LGBT Youth Summit held by the Federal Department of education in addition to galleries, youth centers and universities.

She is excited beyond words to get this in book form.

Follow her on Twitter: @SpeakingOUT_rls

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Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus
Author: Rachelle Lee Smith, with a foreword by Candace Gingrich and an afterword by Graeme Taylor
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-041-0
Published: 10/01/2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 10x8
Page count: 128
Subjects: Gay Studies/Photography

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages fourteen to twenty-four, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.

Speaking OUT gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle. It not only shows unity within the LGBTQ community, but also commonalities regardless of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

With recent media attention and the success of initiatives such as the It Gets Better Project, resources for queer youth have grown. Still, a void exists which Speaking OUT directly addresses: this book is for youth, by youth.

Speaking OUT is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published body of work. These images have been published in magazines such as the Advocate, School Library Journal, Curve, Girlfriends, and Out, and showcased by the Human Rights Campaign, National Public Radio, Public Television, and the U.S. Department of Education. The work continues to show in galleries, universities, youth centers, and churches around the world.


"Rachelle Lee Smith has created a book that is not only visually stunning but also gripping with powerful words and even more inspiring young people! This is an important work of art! I highly recommend buying it and sharing it!" —Perez Hilton, blogger and television personality

"It's often said that our youth are our future. In the LGBT community, before they become the future we must help them survive today. This book showcases the diversity of creative imagination it takes to get us to tomorrow." —Mark Segal, award-winning LGBT journalist

"The power of a look, a pose, and a story can be seen through Rachelle Lee Smith’s photography and the youth who opened up their raw emotions, insecurities, and celebrations to us all. Sharing stories saves lives, but also reminds us that there can be continual struggle in finding identity and acceptance." —Ryan Sallans, author of Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life

"It's wonderful to see so many happy kids. You wouldn't have seen such a crowd fifty years ago. Sometimes things do get better."—Ed Hermance - Owner Giovanni’s Room, the oldest LGBT book store in America

"Rachelle Lee Smith's photographic project presents us with the face and the voice of this generation of LGBT youth: they are passionate, angry, funny, and committed. As an openly gay educational leader, I think this project is critical—not only for young queer people, but for their teachers, parents, mentors, and friends. We need to put this project in libraries and schools across the country!" —Sean Buffington, President and CEO, The University of the Arts

"These are portraits of a revolution. Photographer Rachelle Lee Smith gives lesbian and gay youth an outlet to speak for themselves. Simple, yet powerful photos of queer youth speak reams." Advocate

"Queer youth have a powerful story to tell and Rachelle Lee Smith has given voice to them through her stark, gorgeous photography. Speaking Out captures the essence of LGBTQ young people - proud, visible and with something important to say. Smith's collection offers a glimpse of Generation Equality you won't easily forget."Candace Gingrich, Human Rights Campaign

"The young people profiled in this remarkable book represent the tip of the volcano of a new generation transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity categorizations and hierarchies, but they are also making links in the various types of oppression, and are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality." —Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Ed.D. – Professor, Iowa State, University of Massachusetts

"This is a STUNNING book. And it's important. It's important that the next generation is SEEN the way it sees itself. We rightfully put a lot of emphasis on being heard—on words. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and this book's striking focus on the AESTHETICS of this group of queer youth is thoroughly refreshing. Bravo!"—Innosanto Nagara – Author, A is for Activist, Co-founder, Design Action Collective, Oakland

"Rachelle Lee Smith's innovative photographs allow us to see LGBT youth in authentic ways where they give voice to and name their own experiences.  A truly eye-opening set of work!" —Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, leader of the Obama Administration’s anti-bullying initiative and founder of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

"Rachelle Lee Smith has created a powerful (art exhibit) sharing the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Youth from across the country were photographed and asked to offer their voice, opinions, and comments about their experience as GLBT. In their own words and handwriting, these youth have shared their stories creating a very intimate and personal view on what it is like to be a GLBT person today."Human Rights Campaign

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Latest Blog Entries

What Others Are Saying...




A Deep Dive Into Identities
October 16th, 2014

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a project 10 years in the making. It’s pages are pictures of subjects as teens and given time to reflect on their coming out experiences, which is a short journey for some and an especially long journey for many. The book shares the experiences and stories of LGBTQ youth through deeply personal handwritten text and stories of what makes them unique. This collection of youth from all over the world is utterly moving as they show what it’s like to come into your own as part of a community that struggles with its own identity and place in society.

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Speaking Out: A Rainbow of Reasons We Need Diverse Books
by Marcie Bianco
September 29th, 2014

"In Speaking OUT, Smith brings together myriad queer youth, ages 14 to 24, and presents their portraits "without judgment or stereotype, by eliminating environmental influence with [the use of] a stark white backdrop," she writes on her recently funded Indiegogo. [T]his backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject's personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. [...E]ach individual is given the spotlight and a chance to have a voice, but also the strength of the group as a whole."..."

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Speaking Out: A Rainbow of Reasons We Need Diverse Books
by Dave Parker
PFlagg Greensboro
September 2014

"The photos represent a spectrum of youthful identity. Some of their writings reflect a positive coming out experience, while others report negative reactions. Most are certain in their identity; others appear to be questioning. A few seem openly rebellious; some seem truly at peace with themselves and their relationships. They are a microcosm of queer youth..."

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Speaking Out: A Rainbow of Reasons We Need Diverse Books
by Amy Jussel
June 24th, 2014

Her book is called, Speaking Out: Queer Youth in focus and is slated to be published by two indie publishers, PM Press and our friends at Reach and Teach, renowned for their stellar peace and social justice curations from toys, games and eco-friendly items to human rights projects bringing books into being that need strong backing and support sorely lacking in mainstream media.

The project’s video poignantly captures the importance of the work, hand-scrawled with emotional snapshots and vignettes of life by the subjects themselves to give voice to the vision.


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'Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus' Will Document The Lives Of The Young Queer Community
by James Nichols
Huffington Post
June 17th, 2014

An incredible new book is in the works that will serve as the culmination of a ten-year effort by photographer Rachelle Lee Smith to document the lives and tell the stories of queer youth.

Called Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus, the project is slated to be a photographic essay that explores a wide and diverse spectrum of experiences among youth that identify as queer. Everyone involved in the project is between 14 and 24 years of age, and their feature involves a photo that each individual further personalizes with their own handwriting and story.

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