ANCHORAGE – “Love is Love” is the theme of the Treft. Punk art studio for its first Friday event.
“This is Gayle and Julie, and they are super sweet old ladies,” said photographer Mitch Kitter, pointing to a photo of Gayle Schuh and her partner of 35 years Julie Schmidt.
This month the studio is highlighting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples from across the state.
Love is universal,” said Schmidt, sitting alongside fellow retired teacher Schuh. “It’s global, and [we want] for everybody to be able to see that we have the same emotions, the same looks, the same feelings that everybody else in love does.”
The couple tied the knot five years ago in Canada, and although their marriage may not be legal in Alaska, it doesn’t change the fact that they live life the same as every other married couple.
“We all get up, brush our teeth, and walk the dog, and shop for groceries and wash the dishes,” said Schuh. “Our lives are as mundane as everybody else's.”
Schmidt, 69, and Shuh, 64, began their love story 35 years ago.
“We met in the Midwest, playing softball, and I always say how stereotypically lesbian is that,” Schuh laughed.
And although they are laughing now, a same-sex relationship in the 1970s was no laughing matter.
“There [were] job risks, there were all kinds of risk by just putting your face out there, and even though we were both role models as teachers, we just didn't feel that we could put this part of ourselves in that,” said Schmidt.
They both agree that times are changing. “It was understood, but not talked about,” said Schmidt.
They said they still have obstacles to overcome, but one thing as always been easy – their relationship.
“One of our first dates, Julie invited me over to paint the fence when she lived – very romantic,” said Schuh. “And so Mitch and Shalem bought a small picket fence, and paint, and brushes. So there we were in our paint clothes on, because that’s one of the first things we did together.”
It's the special moments that photographers Mitch Kitter and his partner Shalem Mathew tried to capture in every image.
“We haven't really seen pictures of same sex couples that are comfortable and awesome and portray them in the way it is in reality,” said Mathew.
The project began after a lesbian couple said other photographers didn’t want to take portraits of them.
“We thought it was awful,” said Mathew. “To go through something like that would be terrible. So we posted Love is Love on Facebook and it was kind of a roller coaster from there.”
And although these couples' stories aren't over, each chapter begins and ends with love.
The artists said the project blew up fast. They were only expecting five to ten couples, but ended up shooting 28 couples from all over the state, and hope to further expand the show.