A while back I was asked to speak to the ATL Photo Nite community about my work. For me being asked to speak in front of a crowd is stress-inducing, I often joke that I’m better one on one. However, it is such a great opportunity. Not only can I introduce myself to people that don’t me or my work but it gives me a space to practice vulnerability. I’m still learning how to do this but it’s work with doing. One of the projects I spoke of that night was “Odd Couples”. Odd Couples is a study on how opposites attract and how social views are not the deciding factor in connection. At the end of the evening, someone asked me what I learned about love through this project. I wish I had dug deep but I said something self-deprecating and funny. I’d like to try again here. I learned that we all are looking for a sense of belonging and acceptance. That what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. That love is and always will be a bit of a mystery. It’s what makes the pursuit of it (and the projects studying it) so wonderfully intriguing. And the ultimate truth that loves is something that you have to maintain and nurture, even when you’re lucky enough to find it.
Here’s the story behind how I met one of the couples featured in the project
Photo: Alice & Jody © Kaylinn Gilstrap
The first time I met Alice and Jody was at a storytelling event in Atlanta. A girlfriend and I had both recently went through a breakup and we were helping keep each other's spirits up. We spotted a couple of empty seats at a table where two other women were sitting so we quickly headed over. We exchanged names and then Jody asked "How are you doing?". Having had a good day and feeling upbeat I responded "Great!". Everyone then turned to my companion. She was not in high spirits and was giving Eeyore a run for his money. She sighed deeply and said "Fine". Alice and Jody, noticing the gloom, started asking her what had her so down. I jumped in not wanting to start the evening outgoing further down that road with, "It's a man. Isn't it always a man!?". I still remember the edges of their lips slowly creeping up into a smile and Jody's chuckle, as Alice simply said "Not for us.".
We still laugh about our first meeting and my bull in the china shop introduction.
We all have an idea of how love should look. There I was that winter evening right in front of it and for a brief moment, I didn't recognize it. When we have set expectations or don't allow time to truly see others we're at risk of missing out on meaningful interactions and experiences. Luckily, Alice and Jody have kept me around (probably for comic relief) and I have witnessed time and again their love for each other and those around them. I was an honored guest at their wedding and years later they were able to keep my spirits up when I could say again "It's a man. Isn't it always a man!?".
I photographed Alice & Jody for my Odd Couples project. Alice identifies as a beatnik and Jody is an Episcopalian priest.