Jeff Sheng was born in 1980 in California, US and is a very current artist and photographer. Between 2007 and 2012, Sheng was an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the department of Studio Art. A lot of Sheng’s work is based around supporting the LGBT community and his work has been described as “historic” in capturing social progress within the LGBT community in the U.S in the early 21st century. From 2009 to 2011, Sheng worked on a series named “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, this was a series of images documenting the lives of 100 US Militants who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. A part of being in the U.S army means that you are not allowed to openly identify as LGBT, and Sheng wanted to capture the way in which this effected the lives of those who were. In all the images in this series, you can never see the subjects face, this is representative of the way that they have to hide who they really are.
The series of images that he was first known for was a series of 150 portraits taken between 2003 and 2012, its called ‘Fearless’ and features 150 athletes in high school and college teams who identify as LGBT. These moving portraits soon became Sheng’s most famous work and were exhibited in the headquarters of ESPN, the 2009 LGBT Human Rights Conference in Copenhagen, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Nike World headquarters. He also realised a 10 minute slideshow video of “fearless” that was exhibited in the 2012 Summer Olympics in Pride House, this was his debut in Great Britain.
The image out of this series that i find most inspirational in the one below. It is a young ice hockey player who appears to have just finished a game. This is the photograph I find most interesting because of the body language go the young boy, his back is slumped over and his face is expressionless. He looks tired, worn out, and not just physically because of the sport he has just taken part in, but emotionally. He looks fed up of trying to fit in and be accepted. This is the emotion that Sheng has tried to portray in all of his work, he wants to express the message that everyone should be accepted for who they are, we are all equal, no one should feel like they don’t belong. The white background contrasts with the bright outfit of the boy, this is representative of the way that he feels he’s stands out, he doesn’t fit in.
I want to use Sheng’s work as Inspiration for my own photographs, I like the way that he has focused on one particular group of people but still captured them all as individuals. I also want to use the way he photographs his subjects in a natural environment, in a place that they are comfortable and natural.