Jan Dee Gordon is a Los Angeles based photographer who will be releasing a brand new book, LGBTQ of Steel. The photos collected within these pages celebrate a group of LGBTQ individuals who bravely and without hesitation overcame unimaginable obstacles that threatened to hold them back. I had the chance to ask Gordon some questions about this project as well as some of her other work in advance of her book release on July 16th.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I am married to Lawrence Gordon. We have 2 very grown children and 2 grandchildren all of whom we adore. I grew up in LA and graduated from UCLA.
Can you discuss your journey in the field of photography?
As a family we lived in the city of LA, in Encino, in Bel Air, in Beverly Hills, and by the beach in Santa Monica.
We also spent 2 years living in Paris with our kids and then kept our apartment there and went back and forth for over 20 years. Needless to say Paris is a big part of our lives.
Photography began for me, after studying art, in Paris where I took my first class in French. I fell in love with the lens right away- instant gratification. The camera has been in my hands since. So I began my photo education in Paris in French, continued in New York at the International Center for Photography and Los Angeles at UCLA.
Fashion photography was my passion for many years- the results of which were seen in Vogue and Bazaar magazines among others. Family photography became another side of my business at the same time. These family portraits, however, were seen as more art than regular portraits. The final product was a series of 8 photos framed together to a 5 foot length. They hang in over 100 families’ homes internationally.
This was followed by selling framed original framed photos in the gift market throughout the U.S. They have been selected by designers to decorate buildings, lobbies, hallways, apartments. They have been sold in stores throughout the USA.
Your “Of Steel” works examine the inner strength people use to overcome life obstacles, what inspired these pieces?
My work with people and steel comes from my soul. It has always been a struggle to maintain and know ‘who I am.’ I, for years, was totally concerned with pleasing others and not making anyone angry. As I matured and saw my own photography I realized my struggle to just be myself.
My different projects have included carrying a mannequin head around Paris and photographing it in different situations, painting a model’s body with acrylic paint and contrasting her to wood and steel, making collages from real photos and mannequins and bodies and photographing the collage. These have led to more recent projects combining living elements such as flowers and branches with steel- the steel always representing reality and life- tough but bendable.
I was always covering up the woman or using a fake woman. Following, I used living examples but not real people. Obviously I was getting closer to developing my own strength to express who I am. A mentor finally said to me- “Why don’t you get to your reality and use a woman.” My artwork pieces now involve nude women with steel.
Could you describe your first book Women of Steel?
In the book, Women of Steel, we can understand how these 20 successful women used their inner strength to overcome the obstacles and hardships in each of their lives and to then lead a life of their choice. They are real examples of the theme of my work. Each reacted to the piece of steel in the photograph as she reacted to dealing with her particular difficulties.
The idea for the new book, LGBTQ of Steel was born because my brother, Ben, who was an early victim of HIV. He died from complications of the disease at 48 years old. He was President of a bank and had a PHD but had no idea how one got HIV.
He led a double life until he became ill when he had to open up to all of us. He left a 14 year old daughter who is now in this book as is her partner.
Your second book, LGBTQ of Steel releases on July 16th, can you discuss this new collection?
LGBTQ of Steel tells, in their own words, how each of these 50 people dealt with gaining the strength to deal with a life that was frequently not understood by the person her-himself- a life with poignant and basic hardship that had to be overcome. The subjects of the book share their joy of life after this experience. The photos, bios, and quotes tell of all the personal layers of their lives.
What do you hope people who see your work take away from it?
My hope is that this book will lead to an empathy and understanding of the community’s members and make humanity inclusive and open. I also hope that young people who are struggling with their identity will be inspired to open up and share and feel more in touch with society and life.
Where can our readers keep up with you and your work online?
You can find me on:
@humanityofsteel on Instagram