PHOTOS: Speaking OUT raises voices of LGBT youth

Award-winning photographer Rachelle Lee Smith has been photographing portraits of LGBT youth ages 14 to 24 for the past ten years and asking the subjects to write their personal thoughts directly onto the printed photos. The images in this collection, named Speaking OUT, have been published around the world in magazines such as the Advocate and School Library Journal, featured in churches, art galleries, schools, youth centers, and even showcased at the national headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign. Now the unique images are being compiled into a book called Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, which will make the work accessible to even more youth through libraries, schools, youth centers, book stores, and even their own bookshelves at home.

The book will bring together more than 65 portraits from a decade of Rachelle Lee Smith's work with LGBT youth of all different backgrounds, environments, and perspectives. Each portrait is a snapshot in time with the young person's own voice coming through in their own handwriting. The book highlights the youth's individual joys and struggles, while at the same time highlighting their commonalities across race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and backgrounds.

Rachelle Lee Smith has already received accolades from many authors, artists, and LGBT advocates! Television personality and well-known internet blogger Perez Hilton said:

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!

LGBT advocate, lawyer and media personality Angela D. Giampolo said:

I highly recommend that everyone hurry up and buy Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus now!  My friend, colleague and esteemed award-winning photographer, Rachelle Lee Smith, has spent over a decade photographing and memorializing queer youth in a way that showcases the struggle we have ALL faced while coming of age and coming to terms with who we are.  This book is so powerful that you even see the present struggles the kids are facing through one look captured from a certain angle.  As you turn the pages, you’re hit at your core and brought back to a memory of something you have or are currently dealing with.  It’s truly a transformative book published during a time in our collective LGBTQ history when we should be focusing on our queer youth as our future as well as acknowledging and accepting our own personal struggles.

Take an inside look at a few of the images below, and make sure to visit the project's IndieGogo page to help fund the publishing of the book to make it affordable and accessible to all!