Cooper’s The Equalove Project will consist of photographs of same-sex couples and LGBT families to show that relationships of all genders are equal. She hopes to ultimately showcase the photos in a gallery exhibit and book.
Cooper, an LGBT ally, created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her travels, camera equipment and gallery expenses. She has so far raised $285 of the $4,800 goal she needs to reach by Sept. 13 to bring the project to fruition.
“I am going to use the money for updating some of my camera equipment and with the Kickstarter campaign, each tier donated has a prize with it, so some of the funds will also go towards that,” she explained. “But I would also like to travel to different parts of the state, so the money will also go towards travels and to the financial aspects of the gallery showing.”
Cooper, who is the sole photographer, just finished a photography class at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in April, but has been a photographer for nearly 20 years.
She said the project idea grew out of her desire to educate people about the value of all types of relationships.
“Although I am a married woman to a man, I wanted to create the project after thinking about our marriage. Oftentimes people get married and it is this big show. My husband and I eloped; we got married for us because we didn’t think we had to spend dollars to prove we love each other,” she said. “Everyone is entitled to that same right. People should be able to get married to express their love. I wanted to bring awareness to what family and love is.”
She said she has received a lot of support both from individuals and community organizations.
“I have actually contacted Marriage Equality for PA and they posted on Facebook about me and my project and I had a lot of couples contacting me,” she said. “I have been getting a lot of messages from people saying how awesome it is.”
Cooper said the couples she’s photographed already have powerful stories.
“A couple that I took photos of recently, their biggest fear is having one of them become ill and not being able to see them in the hospital. It really broke my heart to hear that. I can’t even imagine being told that you can’t be by the side of the person you love during the time they need you the most,” she said. “One of the men changed his last name when he and his partner got married. They went to Maryland to get married and he had difficulties getting his name changed on his license in Pennsylvania. It is complete discrimination.”
Instead of focusing on the negative, however, Cooper said her project seeks to focus on the emotional and relational benefits of marriage equality.
“I feel that this is something that everyone needs to see. Everyone knows about LGBT issues and marriage equality but sometimes it is not talked about enough in a positive way. Most of what you read is for shock value and I don’t see a positive light being shed on marriage equality and the LGBT community,” she said. “So I am trying to shed the positive light and show what a normal family is and not just what a majority of the population, especially in conservative Lancaster, thinks it is. I am trying to establish that we are all a part of the community no matter who we are.”
For more information on The Equalove Project, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/620870096/the-equalove-project.