Ronnie Gilliard Ellis Jr. met his partner Earl, 44, in his 30s. But it wasn’t until the two were “well over 50” that they started to make themselves known as a couple.
Now 79, Ellis. Jr remembers growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina as a gay man and hiding his sexuality. “The gay bar was a block from my grandmother’s house, so I could walk to the bar and not get caught,” he says.
Her story is one of 12 told in a documentary that is part of an exhibit called “Not Another Second,” which premieres this week at the Watermark in Brooklyn Heights, a luxury seniors’ facility that has opened its doors. doors last year.
The experience, much of which is also available online, aims to illustrate the triumphs, setbacks and unique challenges faced by a generation that has grown up at a time when the American Psychiatric Association considered “homosexuality” to be a psychiatric disorder.
Many of their stories focus on the number of years they have been in the closet. The discussions explore how they have kept their true identities a secret from their friends, family and colleagues. Each interview also highlights the different ways in which they have helped pave the way for future generations. For example, the film details how the Reverend Goddess Magora Kennedy, an 81-year-old lesbian featured in the exhibit, participated in the Stonewall Riots.
The exhibition tells their stories through portraits made by German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen, whose work includes “Happy at 100”, a series of photos of centenarians. Their portraits are complemented by quotes from each individual as well as statistics on LGBTQ + seniors. Additionally, those attending the exhibit can watch one-on-one interviews with participants using their phones.
The show comes nearly two years after Watermark Retirement Communities, which operates several senior residences across the United States, pledged to achieve “platinum accreditation” from Sage, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ + seniors. . Obtaining this diploma ensures that at least 80% of employees participate in a single training session provided by Sage.
“Not Another Second” is a collaboration between Watermark Retirement Communities and Sage. According to the first, it is also the first in a series of “cultural campaigns” that the company plans to launch in the future.
Bring it together
According to the two organizations, all images were shot before Covid-19 began to take hold in the United States. Of the 12 people featured, seven are residents of Watermark, while five got involved with help from Sage.
The concept “Not Another Second” was created by RXM Creative, an agency founded in 2014 by former 360i creatives. The interviews were conducted by Sharkey Weinberg and produced by Convicts NYC, the studio behind the “NY Tough” video that went viral last year (and eventually drew criticism after filmmakers accused the company of using footage without permission).
While much of the content lives online, it was implemented in an art gallery at the Watermark in Brooklyn Heights with the help of Nascent Art, a company specializing in providing “art solutions for spaces.” “.
Exposure faces restrictions due to the pandemic. Those who want to attend the exhibition must book a ticket in advance and space is limited to 10 people per hour and a half.
“In ‘normal times’ the vision was much broader,” said Jill Harlow, national director of branding and marketing at Watermark Retirement Communities. “You would have more interaction with people. It was certainly the larger vision: people interact and connect.