The amount of LGBTQ youth that struggle on a daily is exponential. When you grow up and don’t see people like you on the day to day or when you feel like you are alone it makes you question why you exist. This is a struggle that many LGBTQ youth are currently having or have had, myself included. Thoughts like these are part of why suicide rates are so high for LGBTQ youth, but Maxwell Poth is working to fight back.
Maxwell Poth is the creator of the Project Contract photo series. The photo series shares the stories of LGBTQ youth and works to raise awareness in regards to mental health. Project Contrast was featured in an OUT Magazine article recently and I had the pleasure of chatting with Maxwell Poth for an exclusive interview. Check it out below.
Javay Frye: What is Project Contrast?
Maxwell Poth: I created Project Contrast merely for raising awareness for mental health issues and the suicide rate where it’s at its highest. We’re the active soldiers, because there are a lot of people that do outreach and have non-profits that talk about mental health, but we physically go and meet these kids and help them become the advocates. We have them share their stories, we photograph and interview them, so you know who they are. They give advice to struggling youth just like themselves.
I came out at 17 years old in a Mormon community. I wished that I had someone to relate to in my society, to not feel alone. I was reading about all these suicides and I felt that sharing stories could make a difference – reading these stories and finding out that there is someone just like you.
JF: How do you find the people you interview and photograph?
MP: This originated in Utah and at first I met the kids through their parents or social media, but now we find them through LGBT centers. In New Mexico we work with homeless LGBT center. We work with centers because when we go to different states we learn about the different resources available to these kids and then we educate them on those. A lot of the kids don’t know about the resources available to them. The centers also help us in finding youth for the photo series.
JF: What impact have you seen since starting the photo series?
MP: We have had a lot of kids reaching out, not only thanking us in this country but other countries as well. We make the stories accessible to everyone via magazines, booklets and social media. The impact has made it so that they are learning of their resources. It has helped others become advocates within their community. Through getting together with LGBTQ kids they have been creating their own communities like youth groups and such.
The Project Contrast photo series is coming to Los Angeles. The series will be available to view for a full week from August 26th to August 31st at the M + B Photo Studio (1050 N Cahuenga Blvd). Be sure to check out the exhibit while it is here in LA and follow Project Contrast on Instagram.