Powerful Portraits

PSU alum’s photography project tells the stories of gay men around the world.  

Kevin Truong believes that stories have the power to connect us — not just to each other, but to ourselves.

That’s the idea behind his international photography project, the Gay Men Project 500 Internal Server Error

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“What I have been trying to do with the Gay Men project is to collect stories and photographs in a way of making the world seem a little smaller,” he says.

His subjects reflect the diversity and strength of gay men’s experiences around the world. The photos show men as they are—proud, playful, loving, professional, intense or serene. He has photographed subjects everywhere from Tennessee to Kenya.

“When I was younger, I think I would have benefited from seeing this blog, seeing these individuals, and the normalcy of their life,” he says. “I want these images to be a little boring and a little normal.”

Kevin’s own story is anything but boring. When Kevin’s mother was pregnant, she fled Vietnam with his two older sisters in a wooden boat across the South China Sea. The boat floated at sea for several weeks after its motor was stolen by Thai pirates.

“The people on the boat decided that they would rather die at sea than go back without reaching their goal,” he says. “When I need courage, I think about how that must have felt.”

Eventually his mother landed in a refugee camp in Malaysia where Kevin was born. The family then immigrated to the U.S. the following year, and settled in east Portland where he and his siblings were raised.

Kevin kept his own gay identity a secret for years. After finally coming out during his time at PSU, he followed through on a lifelong dream by joining the Peace Corps. He was stationed in Belize, a country where homosexuality is against the law.

“I knew that I couldn’t go back into the closet. I was sitting under a palm tree trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I decided if I could do anything, I would go to art school in New York — so that’s what I did.”

Kevin moved to New York City and enrolled in a photography program at the Pratt Institute. He began shooting portraits of his friends, then expanded to the broader gay community.

Since then, Kevin’s skills as an artist and photojournalist have taken him around the world. His work has been featured by major news outlets including NBC News, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, and other international publications.

His advice to students is simple: use the skills you have to try to make a positive impact on the world.

“Even if I can make one person feel less alone, then I’ll be happy.”