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June 28, 2024

Celebrating Pride Month with PPA Photographers!

As Pride month comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to honor the diversity of our vibrant membership. Here’s a look into the lives and careers of seven PPA members interviewed on the topic of photography, creativity, joy, and what Pride means to them as an LGBTQ+ photographer. 

Andrew Werner (He/Him)

Andrew Werner feels fortunate to have grown up in an open-minded community on Long Island, one that embraced his creative tendencies from the start. He knew he was different, but he says, “I just thought of myself as being me.”

His passions for theater and writing were strong, but everything fell into place when he picked up a camera. Photography became his way to capture moments and make them last forever, bringing joy and happiness to his life.

In New York City, Andrew found a place where he could truly be himself—a social butterfly flitting from event to event, documenting the nightlife, and networking with a diverse array of creatives.

Andrew describes himself as “a photographer’s photographer,” deeply invested in the art and dedicated to uplifting the work of others. He frequently reviews other photographers' portfolios, offering advice when asked. Mostly self-taught, he has faced challenges like everyone else. One of his main obstacles is maintaining a work/life balance. As a creative, his mind is always on the next project, leaving little free time. His most recent labor of love is Fleur'd Pins, handcrafted lapel flowers that tie together an outfit and can be used in an endless amount of ways.

One of his many personal photo projects, Places Without Faces captures the silence of NYC in a way that few have a chance to witness. Like New York City, Andrew Werner is known for his hustle and says proudly: "I'm known for what I do and I love what I do." It's his wish that everyone can find something they are truly passionate about.

For Andrew, Pride is about celebrating our differences and embracing change. While everyone has a unique perspective, loving one another for who we are is essential. You can view more of Andrew's work at Andrew Werner Photography

Keirstin Proud (She/Her)
Keirstin Proud wears many hats: graphic designer, nature lover, yogi, solo mom, and photographer.

In college, she majored in theater with a focus on costume design but almost chose photography school instead. Years later, after becoming a mother and seeking control over her schedule, photography re-entered her life. As it turns out, photography runs in the family—her father is a nature photographer, and she grew up documenting her surroundings with a film camera.

Keirstin began photographing the old architecture of Boston, enjoying the blend of natural expanses and historical buildings. Today, she captures the beauty of the natural world and weddings on the sunny beaches of Florida. While she once photographed all-day weddings, she now prefers shorter events, allowing her to balance her roles as a photographer, graphic designer, and mom.

While she was working at a different organization, Keirstin also discovered an LGBT travel blog and soon began managing their social media. She enjoys the different aspects of her job, such as working events like the sailboat festival in St. Pete and the massive boat festival in Sarasota. Through this job, she learned about the LGBTQ+ community and realized quickly that she too belonged there. Once she started embracing her identity as a bi woman, she found an entire spiritual community right there, waiting for her with open arms. 

Like many artists, Keirstin finds it hard to choose a niche. Instead, she embraces her multidisciplinary interests, finding inspiration in everything. View more of Keirstin's work at Keirstin Proud Photography & Design.

Lauren Emerson, CPP (They/Them)

Lauren Emerson, CPP describes themselves as independent, and we’d like to add another word: brave. On their own, Lauren has carved a path as a part-time photographer, specializing in weddings for a subcontracting company where no one else looked quite like them or identified as LGBT.

In college, Lauren started as a music major, playing in the marching band, and then transitioned to theater, exploring the different ways they found joy. Photography, initially a lifelong hobby, soon became a viable path for generating income and fulfilling their love of the arts.

Regardless of others' opinions, Lauren says, "I’m going to keep on being me." And it’s really that simple. While people identified as LGBTQ+ may not make up the majority of the population, it doesn’t make them any different than someone not identified as LGBTQ+. View more Photos by L Emerson here. 

Laurent Rappaport (He/Him)

Laurent Rappaport, more commonly known as Mr. Beefcake, is a man of many talents. By day, he works as an ironworker, currently replacing the roadway on the 59th Street Bridge, a cantilever bridge over the East River in New York City. Part-time, he's a passionate photographer, blending into the crowds of Jersey City Pride and capturing the joy of the event. Event photography is his passion; he loves the candid shots and portraits he captures while mingling with the crowds.

From a young age, Laurent was fascinated by photography, going through hundreds of disposable cameras and learning to use a darkroom from his uncle. His photography journey took a significant turn when he bought a Canon REBEL T2 and began taking pictures of performers at drag shows, often focusing on his fiancé, who performed in elegant Victorian drag.

In 2021, Laurent came out and noticed the disconnect between society’s expectations of a gay man and how he felt the world saw him. His business name, The Trade Photography, is a nod to his identity as a "trade," a term from ballroom culture referring to a man whom traditional society can't easily identify as gay. His nom de plume, Mr. Beefcake, was an inside joke from the time he stepped up to help at an LGBTQ+ event where he served as the pretend butler, wearing a lavish Victorian vest and wig. 

Laurent is proud to be an LGBT-certified business in New Jersey and to hold a drone pilot license. As he transitions away from construction, he's excited to connect with more photographers like him in his city.

J.R. St Jean, CPP (He/Him)

J.R. St Jean, CPP feels fortunate to have been born into an accepting family, which he describes as "an exception to the rule." During his 10 years in Atlanta, he was an active member of the LGBTQ+ community, dancing with the Hotlanta Squares, a non-profit organization dedicated to Modern Western Square Dancing within the LGBT community, starting at the age of 16. He also danced professionally as a ballroom dancer for 20 years and, little-known fact, was the man behind the Atlanta Braves Mascot for three seasons!

J.R. later moved to Orlando, Florida, where he became a Fine Art Photographer at Walt Disney World. There, he mastered the art of photographing people in all conditions, consistently creating images that emphasized the big blue sky expanses and puffy white clouds Florida is known for.

Nowadays, he specializes in volume photography, including school, sports, and events. He is also strong advocate for photographers being flexible to meet their clients' needs. He often observes that some photographers fail to meet consumer expectations and wishes more people would understand how simple it is to take this one crucial step.

J.R. completed his Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) credential during COVID and encourages photographers in his community to connect, share resources, and build a supportive network. View more of J.R's work at St Jean Photography

Diane Haymes (She/Her)

Ten years ago, Diane came out to her family as trans and began the journey of fully living her truth. "I didn’t fully understand PRIDE until coming out," she says. "When there is so much negative energy directed your way, there’s a tendency to internalize it." For Diane, walking down Peachtree Street at Atlanta Pride was a triumphant act, a moment when she no longer felt the need to hide.

Diane was inspired by her artistic father and found herself drawn to photography, which she describes as a blend of the arts and sciences. Her interest was solidified after taking a college course called the Physics of Photography. The darkroom lab captivated her heart, as did the properties of light.

Coming out as trans was made easier with the great resources and support she received from her therapist and other women like her. The freedom to be herself and live life without a filter that blocked out her true self opened the door to many affirming experiences for Diane. She reflects, "I never knew how hard I was working to be not me until I started being me."

Diane embraces the challenges that come her way and openly shares her experiences with others who are willing to listen. View more Diane Haymes Photography here.

Rick Fogerty, CPP (He/Him)

Rick Fogerty, CPP takes immense pride in several accomplishments throughout his professional career. Notably, he is the first and only LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE®) in Texas offering real estate photography services, a milestone that reflects his commitment to diversity and inclusion. Obtaining FAA certification as a drone pilot has also opened up new avenues for creativity and innovation in his photography services, giving him the freedom to showcase properties and their features from a bird's eye view with remarkable freedom.

During the pandemic, Rick’s company was affected by a mass layoff, leaving him without a job for a while. Taking stock of his career, he decided it was the right time to start his own real estate photography business. Since then, he has made significant strides. His business, AccuPhotography®, is now a registered trademark, adding value and legitimacy to his work.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, Rick understands the importance of supporting minority-owned businesses. He believes that business ownership, especially for those in minority groups, can be a lonely road, and no one should have to travel it alone. This belief drives Rick to pave the way for a world where success is more attainable for everyone. Every day, he works to support and uplift others, ensuring that success is possible for all, regardless of their background. View more of Rick's photography at AccuPhotography®.

PPA extends a heartfelt thank you to all the photographers involved in the making of this article! Thank you again for sharing your time and your story.