Mama Dragon Story
Kimberly Anderson’s career has always been that of storytelling. Starting as a photojournalist, shooting for years as a commercial photographer and now doing personal long-form photographic essays, her imagery has always integrated the narrative alongside the visual. She has been shooting a 20 year project on Utah’s Great Salt Lake and publishing several portfolios from that imagery that have been placed in national and international galleries and institutions. She is also working on a landscape project combining landscapes of the west alongside stories of myth, legend and oral history.
Her current body of work departs from the landscape but stays close to the narrative. She started working with a group of women in Utah called the Mama Dragons in early 2015 and immediately was drawn to their stories of compassion, protection and unconditional love for their LGBTQI children. The Mama Dragon Story Project grew out of the experiences listening to these women and their stories of love and personal growth coming to terms with their religious upbringing and reconciling that with the very real issue of their children coming out to them. Born out of desperation, the Mama Dragons have spread a message of compassion and love not only to their children, but to other mothers, parents and allies regardless of religious affiliation. The Mama Dragons have a predominantly LDS or Mormon component with in them, but the group is not limited to members of a single faith, or anyone who has abandoned organized religion altogether.
Kimberly is shooting the portraits on 5x7 sheets of film in Black and White, using cameras, lenses and materials from the turn of the century. Processing and printing the negatives on gelatin silver paper in her custom darkroom is a labor of love. Anderson has photographed over 50 Mama Dragons from a dozen states since the projects inception in January of 2015.
These images combined with the essays written by the individual women themselves brings to light the real issues faced when confronted by the knowledge that their child identifies with something outside of cultural and religious norms. Many stories are filled with heartbreak and sadness. Many are filled with reconciliation both with their children as well as with God. All are filled with unconditional acceptance and love towards their children. This message of love above all else is the cause that the Mama Dragons are fighting for. They protect and defend their children against the onslaught of society and religious dogma. They aim to educate and share. They accept other Mama Dragons wherever they are on their journey of acceptance and love towards their children. Anderson’s project is one driven by compassion and understanding.
As a member of the marginalized community that the Mama Dragons protect, she feels compelled to share their stories. Goals for the project include publication in book form and a traveling exhibit by fall of 2016. Anderson has a BA and an MFA from Utah State University has taught numerous classes in photography at universities all over the state and currently resides in the Salt Lake Valley.
Kimberly and I have become fast friends. She has to be one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever encountered. Her passion for our children leaves me speechless! She sees a bit of herself in each and every child she that she loves, I honestly believe Kimberly will aid in changing the worlds view of our LGBTQI children. It’s an absolute honor to work with her!
As many of you already know, Kimberly is going this entire project pro bono. She hasn’t asked us to contribute financially at all, but we are the ones who will ultimately benefit from this beautiful project she is working on. She and I have had many conversations about how much time and money she’s spent on this project, including travel expenses, film, and again time. Time that takes away from other projects. Soooo, like many of you, I want this project to succeed, I want our stories heard. Lets help! Lets help get this story published! Publishers aren’t cheap, film isn’t cheap and Kimberly’s time and talent isn’t cheap, but she’s donating both to our cause! I am setting up a Go Fund me account to help finish up this project! Won’t it be rewarding to know that not only are our stories out there, but that we all personally helped make this happen?
Oh my goodness! The love! It's amazing. This project is an obsession of mine right now. Your contributions are AMAZINGLY powerful, not only in terms of allowing the physical work to keep going, but also as a vote of confidence and love. You know that deep at heart this is a suicide prevention effort. It all starts at home and it all starts with the love. We're reaching out to find those who are struggling and wanting to giving them hope and perhaps even a little guidance of what to do next. Thank you, truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will do you proud. I promise.