Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus - the book! - by Rachelle Lee Smith

This is a photographic essay that shares the experiences and stories of LGBTQ youth through text and imagery. Taking place over a span of a decade. Now a book!
Rachelle Lee Smith
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We reached our goal!  Thank you for your support. 

You can still sponsor this book or help out until the end of this month!  

Send me an e-mail to learn how! speakingOUT@rachelleleesmith.com

Any additional support will help get this work exhibited and allow for a larger marketing effort to get this book into the hands of those who need it!)

            Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus



Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that shares the experiences and stories of LGBTQ youth through handwritten text and imagery. Taking place over a span of a decade, the project that started on gallery walls is now becoming a book!

Help us to make it affordable and accessible for all!

Let’s get these voices seen and heard!

The collection of voices captured by Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus strives to raise awareness by reinforcing the idea that there is strength in numbers, power in words and freedom in art.  

The Work -www.rachelleleesmith.com/speakingOUT

The Publishers -www.PMpress.org and www.ReachAndTeach.com

The Praise -www.rachelleleesmith.com/speaking-out/accolades

The Press -www.rachelleleesmith.com/press

Exhibitions -www.rachelleleesmith.com/shows

Check OUT this video for an extended Q&A:



Photography and project creation by Rachelle Lee Smith - an award-winning and internationally shown photographer based in Philadelphia whose work in Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus combines her passions for activism and photography.

A foreword by Gandace Gingrich - an LGBT rights activist at the Human Rights Campaign focusing on youth. Her involvement in the movement for queer equality began when her brother, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-GA., was elected House speaker.

An afterword by Graeme Taylor- At age 14, Graeme skyrocketed to international attention when he confronted a school board for not defending gay rights in it’s schools. In the process, Graeme became one of the youngest and most widely known openly gay teens in America. He was interviewed on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. and the Ellen Degeneres Show and is now the subject of a short film, Shrug


Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages fourteen to twenty-four, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop.

This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.

Speaking OUT gives a voice to an under-served group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle. It not only shows unity within the LGBTQ community, but also commonalities regardless of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. With recent media attention and the success of initiatives such as the It Gets Better Project, resources for queer youth have grown. Still, a void exists which Speaking OUT directly addresses: this book is for youth, by youth.

Speaking OUT is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published body of work. These images have been published in magazines such as the Advocate, School Library Journal, Curve, Girlfriends, and Out, and showcased by the Human Rights Campaign, National Public Radio, Public Television, and the U.S. Department of Education. The work continues to show in galleries, universities, youth centers, and churches around the world.

                              CLICK HERE FOR MORE SINGLE IMAGES



Shippensburg University, Gender Reel Festival, West Hill United Church, US Department of Education Federal LGBT Youth Summit, Mazzoni Health Center Gala, Identity Youth Center, The Cube Gallery, Santa Clara University, The University of Maryland, William Way Community Center Art Gallery, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Headquarters, III Warsaw Festival of Photography, The University of the Arts,True Expression Center Gallery, Syracuse University, Equality Forum Art Show with Young Gay America, Photo Review Awards Show, Space 315, University of Florida, The Society for Photographic Education


Tikkun Daily, Zannegaar, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Iran Program, Philadelphia Gay News, Philadelphia Magazine – G Philly, Out in Jersey, CNS News, US Department of Education, SheWired.org, PhotoArt Mag and PhotoArt.cz, Philadelphia Inquirer, Leeway Foundation, Human Rights Campaign – Equality, Rutgers University – Answer, The Washington Blade, TheNewGay.net, III Warszawski Festiwal Fotigrafii Artystycznej, Arcadia University – Tower, Out and About, School Library Journal, Mane Aktuell, Out Magazine, NYC Gay City News, Girlfriends Magazine, Visions, Reaching Out- Law School Admission Council, WYBE: “Philly Live”,  Philadelphia Daily News, Temple News, YoungGayAmerica Magazine, Philly Weekly, Syracuse University Newspaper, Photo Review, The Advocate, Curve Magazine

WHERE WE WILL GO (with your help):


Libraries, Schools, Universities, Dentist Offices, Youth Centers, Community Centers, Galleries, Book Stores, Counseling Centers, Your Parent’s House, Your Brother's Coffee Table, Your Sister's Desk, A Teen’s Book Shelf, Homes Around the World…



Producing a book costs a lot.  Printing a full color photo book costs quite a bit more.

A lot of the work (traveling, camera equipment, lighting gear, film, processing, paper, image printing costs) is behind us, but, in order to get this book to be affordable to a wide reaching audience, we need money for:








But ultimately the money is going to THE VISIBILITY OF QUEER YOUTH

Anything over the goal will allow us to travel with a show of the work!





Perez Hilton – Blogger and Television Personality

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!

Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, leader of the Obama Administration’s anti-bullying initiative and founder of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Rachelle Lee Smith's innovative photographs allow us to see LGBT youth in authentic ways where they give voice to and name their own experiences.  A truly eye-opening set of work!

Sean Buffington – President, The University of the Arts

Rachelle Lee Smith's photographic project presents us with the face and the voice of this generation of LGBT youth: they are passionate, angry, funny, and committed. As an openly gay educational leader, I think this project is critical - not only for young queer people, but for their teachers, parents, mentors, and friends. We need to put this project in libraries and schools across the country!

The Advocate  –  Magazine

Portraits of a Revolution: Photographer Rachelle Lee Smith gives lesbian and gay youth an outlet to speak for themselves.

Simple, yet powerful photos of queer youth speak reams.

Candace Gingrich – HRC's Associate Director for Youth & Campus Engagement

Queer youth have a powerful story to tell and Rachelle Lee Smith has given voice to them through her stark, gorgeous photography. Speaking OUT captures the essence of LGBTQ young people - proud, visible and with something important to say. Smith's collection offers a glimpse of Generation Equality you won't easily forget.

Malcolm Lazin – Executive Director, Equality Forum

Rachelle Lee Smith’s photographs take us one step closer and provide an inside, emotionally bare look at some of the unheard voices of young queer people. Smith offers a suggestion of the vast numbers of diversity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth and encourages her subjects to express their own powerful ideas and thoughts. The work is especially impressive in its presentation of image and written narrative of GLBTQ youth.

I have followed Rachelle's work for over ten years. Her work has made a unique contribution to GLBT civil rights.

Angela D. Giampolo, Esquire  – LGBT Advocate, Lawyer and Media Personality

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.

David Graham Photographer, author Taking Liberties, Almost Paradise

The perfectly executed photographs, the passionate handwritten text, the insights, secrets and revelations all combine to make this a powerful body of work. Ms. Smith has shown a light on a group of young people and illuminated the world in which they live.

Liz Moore – Author, Heft, The Words of Every Song  

Rachelle Lee Smith's art captures something essential about each of her subjects; it transcends the static nature of photography and makes each person come to vivid life on the page. Their written words amplify this sensation. Smith is an artist to watch.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Ed.D. – Professor, Iowa State, University of Massachusetts

The young people profiled in this remarkable book represent the tip of the volcano of a new generation transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities related not only to sexuality and gender identity categorizations and hierarchies, but they are also making links in the various types of oppression, and are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across gender and sexuality spectrums will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender and sexuality.

Ryan Sallans –  Transgender Speaker and Author of Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life

The power of a look, a pose, and a story can be seen through Rachelle Lee Smith’s photography and the youth who opened up their raw emotions, insecurities and celebrations to us all. Sharing stories saves lives, but also reminds us that there can be continual struggle in finding identity and acceptance.

Innosanto Nagara –  Author, A is for Activist, Cofounder, Design Action Collective, Oakland

This is a STUNNING book. And it's important. It's important that the next generation is SEEN the way it sees itself. We rightfully put a lot of emphasis on being heard—on words. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and this book's striking focus on the AESTHETICS of this group of queer youth is thoroughly refreshing. Bravo!

Ed Hermance Owner Giovanni’s Room, the oldest LGBT book store in America

It's wonderful to see so many happy kids. You wouldn't have seen such a crowd fifty years ago.  Sometimes things do get better.

Mark Segal Publisher, Philadelphia Gay News and the nations most awarded LGBT journalist

It's often said that our youth are our future.  In the LGBT community before they become the future we must help them survive today.  This book showcases the diversity of creative imagination it takes to get us to tomorrow.  

Gretta Vosper  Minister and author With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe

Photography, as its most basic, is a juxtaposition of light and darkness. Capturing an image with the perfect blend of these two things is an art. Rachelle Lee Smith achieves that high standing and raises the bar by bringing not only the light and darkness of the image into focus but also the light and darkness of her subjects. In this profoundly moving and important collection, the art of photography is beautifully pressed beyond its printed product and into the real world where sexuality, love, and identity, and the damage that can be wreaked upon each of them, is exposed. A brilliant light elegantly shone. Thank you, Rachelle.

Carrie Jacobs, PhD Executive Director, Attic Youth Center (PA)  

Rachelle’s work speaks volumes - telling stories that need be told and giving voice to those whose lives need to be heard.  She has created an opportunity for LGBTQ youth to express their power and voice. I believe that every young person who witnesses this work will feel a part of that power.

Tom Wilson Weinberg  Founder of Giovanni’s Room, America’s first LGBT Book Store

Rachelle's photos are full of life and thrilling in their originality. The marriage of photos and text results in mini-biographies of these vibrant young LGBTers.

Human Rights Campaign

Rachelle Lee Smith has created a powerful (art exhibit) sharing the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Youth from across the country were photographed and asked to offer their voice, opinions, and comments about their experience as GLBT. In their own words and handwriting, these youth have shared their stories creating a very intimate and personal view on what it is like to be a GLBT person today.

B. Proud – Photographer, Professor, Author First Comes Love  

The use of the square format with visible film edges further confines the subjects to a limited environment.  They are boxed in.  Yet they leap and dance and laugh; they brood or they stare us directly in the eye, their spirits transcending the boundaries of the frame and daring us to be free enough to love, honor and live together in harmony. These are photographs that not only need to be seen, they need to be heard.

Erin Gotthardt – Coordinator, Identity Center (NY)

Being able to display several pieces from this project in our youth center gave Identity Youth the opportunity to see that they are not alone; there are other young people who have experienced the same joy, frustration, sorrow, hatred, love, confusion, peace, ostracism and belonging.  Through this project, the youth were able to find the rare accurate mirror of themselves, and to contribute their own faces and voices to the positive self-view of other queer youth.

                                CLICK HERE FOR MORE SINGLE IMAGES

Thank you for making it this far!  

You are dedicated. 

Thank you for your support!

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This campaign ended on July 11, 2014
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    Build your Speaking OUT library or check off your gift list now! You or your organization will receive 20 autographed books, a set of 12 Speaking OUT postcards, 2 coloring books, social media shouts outs, a hand written heartfelt card, and you will receive a special acknowledgement on the contributor page of the book and website. (your contribution is tax deductible)

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    You will receive a pop up show of the work at your organization or location of choice and a hand delivery of 10 autographed books. You will also receive an extra extra special acknowledgement on the contributor page of the book and website. (your contribution is tax deductible)

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