How photographer Shannon Kern won the My Gay Texas photo contest with a casual snapshot of her best friend

SHOT FROM THE HEART Shannon Kern shows off her winning photo. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

In more than one way, Shannon Kern feels like an interloper.

She did not get involved in gay rights as an ally (though she now identifies as “pansexual”) until June 28, 2009 — the night of the raid on the Rainbow Lounge. And she’s not a professional photographer,

though she has “dabbled” in photography for 15 years.

Yet there she found herself: The winner of the Dallas Voice’s My Gay Texas photo contest.

Here, then, the story behind the photo.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


Dallas Voice: Tell us about the photo — where was it taken, who is it of…? Kern: It was taken at the Stonewall Rebellion 41st anniversary march and rally at Founders Plaza on June 27, 2010. The [men in it] are my best friend, Freddie Fieder, who designed the shirt, his younger brother Eddie, who is wearing it. Freddie’s the reason why I became a hardcore [gay rights] activist and an ally — well, him and the Rainbow Lounge raid.

What kind of camera did you use?  Just an [inexpensive] Nikon. I’m saving up for a better camera.

How long have you and Freddie been friends?  About 11 or 12 years. We met right after high school, working at a Red Lobster in Lewisville, and became soul mates.

How did you hear about the contest?  From Elizabeth Pax, one of my fellow activists. I’m a community organizer for GetEQUAL Texas and the founder of Soldiers Always Fighting for Equality [SAFE]. I take photos and videos of all of our marches and rallies.

Did she know you were a photographer — is that why she suggested you enter?  I don’t even consider myself a photographer, though I have been taking pictures a good 15 years. But my sister Stephanie, who also entered quite a few pictures, is a photojournalist, so I learned a lot of tricks from her.

Was she jealous you won?  No, she was excited for me! We’re very supportive of each other.

Your charity is GetEQUAL Texas, which you also work with. How long have you been affiliated with them?  Since early last year.

What do you do when you’re not shooting or marching?  I’m a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I’m graduating in December with a master of arts in political sociology. It’s so fun!

I’m working on my thesis right now.

How do your photography, activism and studies complement each other?  I think it’s extremely important to our movement that we document everything we do — to provide proof of our progress to future generations and the efforts we have made for trying to obtain full federal equality, which is the goal.

I’m taking [a class called] campaigns and elections — it’s my last class. I’ve waited three years to take it and am learning so much about the different facets of voting and the strategies and methodologies of campaigning.

I feel there’s such extreme polarization between the right and the left and this phenomenon were observing. What we’re participating in is our fight, and we are at the forefront of a socio-political war. It’s not just gay rights, but women’s rights, minority rights, immigrant rights. We really need to participate in democracy. Our voices really do matter and we’ve got to use them. Don’t take your right to vote for granted.

Yes, well voting certainly helped you win the contest! True.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 16, 2012.