The South. The phrase alone's enough to conjure vivid and varied for most Americans. It is a distinct region, almost, and once, a nation unto itself. It's a land of drawls and hazy, sticky summers and weeping willows and no shortage of lore. It also has a huge concentration of state bans on marriage equality and still remains a hotbed of anti-gay attitudes.
Yet the South also boasts a huge amount of same-sex families: out of all 50 states, Mississippi has the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children. And The South's LGBT street cred is further bolstered, for better or worse, depending on who you talk to, by reality stars like Honey Boo Boo's Uncle Poodle and Lt. Dennis Croft from Small Town Security.
As these men and others come forward, and as marriage equality activists from the Campaign for Southern Equality start pushing below the Mason-Dixon, Ohio-based photographer and filmmaker Christian Hendricks is embarking on his own sojourn for his forthcoming documentary, South of The Ohio.
"Though my hometown of Cincinnati is in every sense a midwestern city, it serves as the gateway to the American South, sitting just across from the Ohio River, where the South (and my journey) begins," he says in his Kickstarter pitch. "I’m drawn to the South’s distinctive culture: a region that is famous for being both hospitable and intolerant. What is it like to be queer in a region with such conservative religious and political convictions? Are these just fading stereotypes from the past? I hope to answer these questions and more as I set out to meet people, immerse myself in communities, and develop a new, personal understanding that I can share through photography."
Below is Hendricks's official pitch and a small selection of his work. More can be seen at his Tumblr page. And if you do decide to help Hendricks, visit his Kickstarter page. He has about two weeks to raise $5,000.