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Out PA Lawmaker Brian Sims Rappels Down Building In Philadelphia: VIDEO

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Brian Sims, the out Pennsylvania lawmaker who has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community, looked more like an adrenaline junkie than a state representative today as he was seen rappelling down the side of Philadelphia's Commerce Center Building in City Center. As Philly Magazine reports, Sims was practicing for an upcoming charity event on October 24 where he will rappel down Brandywine Realty Trust’s One Logan Square: "He, along with a team of local LGBTers lead by Angela Giampolo, are taking on the task to raise money for The Philadelphia Outward Bound School."

Watch a video of Sims' adventure, AFTER THE JUMP...

And ICYMI, be sure to peep Sims striking a pose (in a Towleroad tee no less!) in Emil Cohen's Provincetown portraits

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47 Portraits of People in Provincetown and a Chat with Photographer Emil Cohen: PHOTOS

BY ANDY TOWLE

Towleroad spent several months this summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. 'P-town', in addition to being the nation's historic LGBT resort destination, has also served as an enclave for writers and artists since the late 1800s and continues to attract creative types from all over the world who are drawn by the area's dramatic physical beauty, its numerous arts venues, and its colorful collection of tourists and townies.

EDC_PortraitsOfProvincetown_Towleroad_002One project we've had our eye on all summer is a photographic documentary series by Emil Cohen, who stationed himself each evening outside the Boatslip (where a daily and long-running 'Tea Dance' is held) and found hundreds of willing subjects to stand in front of his lens.

Emil (pictured, right, in self-portrait) sat down with me this week to share 47 of the portraits with Towleroad and discuss the process and inspiration behind his impressive project.

Who are you and how would you describe yourself as an artist?

My name is Emil Cohen and I'm a professional photographer. I received my MFA this past spring from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. As an artist, I find myself drawn to portraiture’s ability to capture the human experience.

What inspired you to start photographing people in Provincetown?

This past summer, my fiancé and I had a seasonal rental lined up for the summer, so I knew that the next project that I took upon myself would be shot in Provincetown and more specifically, be about Provincetown. The inspiration behind this particular project was mainly Richard Avedon's In The American West series. I proudly own an original copy of the book (a gem I discovered at Tim's Used Books on Commercial St.) and became inspired to create my own portrait series. I like to believe that people captured in Avedon’s work represent real, live individuals, not staged personas. That skill, to embody each person’s essence, is something that I strive to achieve in my own work every day. 

Is portraiture your specialty?

Portraiture is indeed my specialty. I have always found myself drawn to photographing people, though sometimes photographing their environments provides further light on the subjects. Studying the work of Alec Soth, Claire Beckett, Matt Williams and Brian Schutmaat, has enhanced my understanding that a portrait can be more than just a photograph of a person. 

EDC_PortraitsOfProvincetown_Towleroad_035Where did you find your subjects for this project and who are they?

My subjects are all volunteers. I set up my camera on the corner of Atlantic St and Commercial St and ask people if they'd like to participate in a photo series. 

How many people did you photograph? Was it over the course of an entire summer, a few days?

I began shooting this project right after July 4th and have been photographing nearly every day so far. Without realizing it, doing this every day, I’ve captured over 200 people. What’s so unique is that each photograph represents a different person’s background, perspective, experience, life. What I’ve realized about this series is that it’s not only a portrait series, but also a chronology of a P-Town summer: From Bear week to Family week to Carnival and more.

How did you choose the setting?

The critical aspect of the setting was the continuous backdrop, akin to Avedon’s work In The American West. Having people stand in front of the same backdrop forces the viewer to concentrate solely on the person. To me, the storm shingles beautifully represent Provincetown and Cape Cod. Having each person stand in front of the same shingles helped identify the location of this project but also helps create a catalog of people, which as a whole, becomes a portrait of Provincetown itself. 

Which are your three favorite portraits and why?

As each person approached the storm shingles in front of my camera, I provided the same simple instruction: "Be yourself." The three portraits I'm particularly drawn to are ones who fully understood my guidance. Specifically, Super Judge Judy, the two men in black singlets, and the young black man in the black tank top named Richard (all this page, click to enlarge). Super Judge Judy and Richard look directly into the viewers’ eyes and exude a level of self-confidence that strengthens the photo overall. With the Two Wrestlers, I particularly love how the gentleman on the right got lost in the moment and forgot that I was watching them. For these individuals, a mix of the P-Town atmosphere, and perhaps a few Tea Dance cocktails, helped lower their guards and elevate their presence in the photos.

EDC_PortraitsInProvincetown_RichardStGermain_001What is it about Provincetown that makes it especially suitable for this type of project?

I love Provincetown’s ability to draw out the child from within. Each person, regardless of background, can be who they want, dress how they want, and act how they want. This level of curiosity, openness, and fun was more than a gift for me in this series. By beginning to capture the essence of this small town and its visitors, I’m excited to see this work develop into a portrait of the town itself.

Is there a Provincetown photographic tradition that you admire? Any other photographers?

While I don’t have a specific Provincetown photographic tradition in mind, the costumes and theme weeks certainly are a photographer’s dream. There are many photographers whose work I admire and turn to for influence. Irving Penn and Avedon are particularly strong inspirations. As are, Bruce Davidson, Gregory Crewdson, Renika Dykstra, Jess Dugan, and Collier Shore. 

Did you give your subjects special instructions before photographing them?

Stand in front of the shingles and be yourself.

Do you plan to make this a tradition?

To me tradition isn’t something planned, but something that grows organically. Looking back on the project, Portraits in Provincetown is a chronology of portraits, encapsulating the summer of 2014 through a series of photos. Moving forward with the project, returning to the series would expand the idea that this project is an archive which continues to grow every summer. I would love to do such an ambitious project and in five, ten years, have this enormous volume of portraits taken throughout the years to archive Provincetown’s history, continuity, and change. We'll see. I do know one thing’s for sure: I’ll be coming back next summer with my fiancé! (wedding in P-Town anyone?)

Enjoy 44 photos from Cohen's 'Portraits in Provincetown', AFTER THE JUMP...

(you may recognize a few faces, especially near the end)

Visit Cohen's website here and his blog, A Minute for Minute here.

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Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims Pours a Bucket of Ice Water on Himself for ALS: VIDEO

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Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims is the latest high-profile lawmaker to take on the ALS ice bucket challenge. The viral challenge, which raises awareness of ALS involves people being challenged to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves and post it to YouTube, or make a contribution to an ALS charity.

We saw shirtless actor Ansel Elgort take on the challenge yesterday.

For those of you who woke up hoping to see Pennsylvania's bearish out state lawmaker get completely soaked today, you're in luck.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

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'Hardball' Hits the Gay Marriage Rulings Sweeping the Nation, with Brian Sims and Ted Boutros: VIDEO

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MSNBC's Hardball covered yesterday's ruling in Pennsylvania and the large number of gay marriage bans being overturned across the country. NBC's Pete Williams joins Chris Matthews to talk about when a case might reach the Supreme Court.

Matthews was then joined by Prop. 8 attorney Ted Boutros and gay Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims to continue the discussion.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Philadelphia Mayor Signs into Law Sweeping LGBT-Inclusive Legislation

NutterOn Thursday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (pictured right) signed into law legislation that he hopes will make The City of Brotherly Love "the most LGBT-friendly" city in the world. NBC 10 reports:

Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees' domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.

Officials said the legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits.

"My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues," said Nutter, adding that the signing struck a personal note because his friend, the late City Councilman John Anderson, was a gay man and a mentor who inspired him 30 years ago to pursue a life of public service. 

In addition to the business tax incentives, which were backed by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as LGBT advocacy groups, and the gender-neutral restrooms (required in all new or renovated city-owned buildings), the legislation revises Philadelphia's anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues, and changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people. 

SimsState Rep. Brian Sims (pictured right), Pennsylvania's first openly gay lawmaker, helped draft the law's language. In a statement, Sims applauded the bills passage: "This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens...It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city and we will continue to shine."

Earlier this month, Sims introduced marriage equality legislation for the Keystone State. Pennsylvania remains the only northeastern state without same-sex marriage.  


Gay PA Rep. Brian Sims on Governor's Incest Remarks: 'Vote Him Out of Office'

In a Facebook post this afternoon, Pennsylvania's gay Rep. Brian Sims reacted to Governor Tom Corbett's remarks on a radio show this morning in which he compared gay marriage to incest.

SimsWrites Sims:

All day long I've been hearing about the Governor's comments earlier this morning comparing marriage equality to incest. In truth, I'm not giving him or his comments all that much thought and I encourage you to do the same.

No one, not even his own party, would argue that he’s an intellectual heavyweight or even a particularly thoughtful person. The larger issue is that despite the fact that the majority of Pennsylvanians disagree with him, he continues to be the heaviest hitter in Pennsylvania’s anti-equality crusade.

Our job isn’t just to be frustrated with the homophobia coming from the Governor’s Mansion, it’s to do everything we can to ensure that his chapter in Pennsylvania’s political history is as sad and short as his record on schools, economic development and civil rights.

Tom Corbett has been a disaster for Pennsylvania for so many reasons and I hope this fuels your resolve to vote him out of office.


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