Two years ago I was given the opportunity of interviewing a local civil rights activist for a now defunct magazine. The interview was never published so I thought it would be perfect timing to debut it myself following the United State Supreme Count ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges. For those of you living off the grid, under a rock, or happen to have forgotten to pay your wifi for the past week, the Obergefell v. Hodges case was about the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.
The following interview took place on June 5, 2013 in San José, California.
Mark Grime, who professionally goes by the pseudonym Mark Sheppard, is beyond ecstatic right now, and with good reason. With his recent acceptance into the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, along with his campaign’s move to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit and an approaching website launch just days away, things couldn’t be falling more into place for him. We met up with Mark and his girlfriend at his San José studio to hangout and talk about his Legalize Gay Campaign and upcoming plans for the future.
JJB: So what drove you to pursue photography?
MS: I had skater friends, some who were into BMX, and I wanted to start taking their pictures doing tricks. That got boring kinda quick, I mean, there are so many ways you can take a picture of some dude ollie. That’s when I got into using photography as an art form, to get across messages and issues, things that interested me.
JJB: How did the Legalize Gay Campaign get started? Did it have something to do with Prop. 8?
MS: Actually, it started after this argument that I got into with my women’s studies professor back in the Fall of 2011. She made this comment in class, something like, ‘if you’re in love, you’ll get married; and if you don’t get married, you’re not in love.’ I was like, that’s a pretty fucking average opinion. First of all, I know she didn’t say it to be hateful but she basically just used the class to be her podium to spill out her normalass ideas, you know? I wasn’t paying her to be sharing her whimsical bullshit. Second of all, in order to say those average-ass ideas, she was discounting the whole gay community, where there are people who love each other but aren’t able to get married. It was a retarded thing to say – especially from someone with a master’s degree, a fucking college grad. And we went back and forth until eventually I was, like, whatever. This lady is in charge of my grade. I’ll just let her win. But then I began to relive the argument in my head and I was mad that I didn’t fight that all the way through. That’s when I took the first picture, which is just like everyone else’s picture, to sort of express how I felt. It wasn’t to start a movement. I was inviting the argument. ‘Hey, this is my fucking opinion, if you don’t like it, let’s debate it.’ It started out not because I’m a cool guy but because I’m argumentative. I think what’s happened was a byproduct was that other people had that same opinion. And so it became a movement that really all started from one stupid person that said one stupid thing that had pissed me off.
JJB: Is the campaign related to the sloganed American Apparel tee?
MS: No, but it kinda is. I just borrowed their slogan to take the first picture, not really thinking that it was going to turn into anything. It was just me voicing my opinion. I guess it’s their slogan; I don’t really know if they can coin that. But I think they popularized it, for sure. But I’m kinda waiting for the day to hear from them. It’d be like this benchmark of achievement, that I made such an impact that they had to take notice. But I don’t think I’m infringing on their business or anything.
JJB: Are there any photographer that you look up to?
MS: Sebastião Selgado. He’s this Brazilian socio-documentary photographer that shoots everything in blackandwhite. He was this economist but now travels around the world and takes pictures of the underclass people that are being neglected and he just takes these awesome images.
JJB: I read that you had recently gotten accepted to UC Berkeley. I’m sure you’re excited. What do you plan on studying?
MS: Law. Particularly finance law. I think it could be more useful to society, you know, with all the shady loan practices that have been plaguing and screwing over the financially disadvantaged.
JJB: With your future busy school work load, are there any plans to let the Legalize Gay Campaign subside any time soon?
MS: Well, yeah. I think Berkeley Law will get more of my attention. In the long run, it’s all .circling the same goal. I want to pursue law so that I can help people. And if this issue isn’t solved by the time I get out of law school, then I can go into that, you know, human rights. That would be cool pro bono work. But I’m definitely going to keep it up. I mean, I plan on launching the website soon. I just won’t have the capacity to keep going as hard.