November 19, 2019 by Hilary Jenison (all photos courtesy of Barrie Smith Photography)
Barrie Smith is a local artist, photographer, mom, and founder of a new photo documentary series – “The When Did You Know Project.” The goal of her endeavor is to capture and celebrate the self-acceptance of individuals who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. After reading about the project on Facebook, we were inspired to sit down with Barrie and learn more.
Barrie is a talented local photographer who connects with her subjects on a very real level, and the results are raw and beautiful. Through the “When Did you Know Project,” Barrie combines her passions of supporting her LGBTQ+ community and her love of portrait photography. While Barrie loves family photography and the flexibility it allows her as a working mom, her passions led her to explore this creative outlet (in addition to her family portrait work).
She hopes that through this photo documentary series, she will make people in the world who are struggling with their sexual identity to feel less alone. She knows the feeling, as a gay person growing up in Hingham, there were times when Barrie admits she felt very alone, confused and scared.
“Everyone has a different story-their own unique journey. I’m spending the year interviewing people within the LGBTQ+ community and finding out the answer to one of the most commonly asked questions, when did you know? Not when did you come out, but WHEN DID YOU KNOW?”
According to Barrie, “People kept asking me ‘when did you know?’ and I was realizing that people were assuming that my coming out story was when I knew. I noticed that the stories being told were always focused on when an individual came out, but not on the years prior. The years when you are all alone with this secret. When you finally said the word to yourself and didn’t know how to tell your family and friends. When as an adult, you look back and relive the moments when you knew you were different, but didn’t understand what was going on. What happens before the coming out: the knowing. I thought it was important to start telling these stories to help those struggling with coming out and to the family members or friends who are struggling to accept and understand ... and to help them see they are not alone.”
Currently, the “When Did You Know” project lives on Facebook and Instagram where Barrie shares stories of the individuals she meets. Recently, she visited a local college to interview faculty and students about their experiences. To date, Barrie has celebrated nearly 50 individuals and each of their stories is raw, beautiful and impactful. Each story offers a unique perspective on growing up LGBTQ+.
Barrie hopes to reach more people and encourages anyone willing to share their story to reach out to her via direct message on her Facebook or Instagram pages or via personal email here.
“I believe everyone wants to feel accepted. To feel loved. To feel seen and understood. To love freely and openly. No matter their personal identity,” shared Barrie. “To those struggling with coming out and to the family members or friends who are struggling to accept and understand, I hope these images and stories give you hope for the future. And help you realize you are not alone.”
Barrie also hopes to scale the idea with planned visits to NYC for more interviews, gallery openings, the potential for live theatre showcases, and more. In short, this is just the beginning for Barrie and “The When Did You Know Project” ... and we know the sky is the limit!