We've written about Jeff Sheng's Fearless Project many times on Outsports. He has been photographing out LGBT high school and college athletes for the last decade. We visited Sheng at his studio two years ago, and he gave us a video tour of his work and his work space (check out the video below).
Now Sheng is compiling his almost 200 images and stories into a fantastic book as a final culmination of his Fearless Project. He's raising funds to publish the book through Kickstarter; He aims to raise $50k for publication. For $35, you get a special-edition Nike 'Fearless' T-shirt; For just $100, you get the T-shirt and a copy of the book, along with name credit in the book and a photo proof! Pretty cool for just $100.
"What's amazed me about the fundraising drive, has been the level of support from the athletes already in 'Fearless,'" Sheng told Outsports. "The largest donations so far have been from these athletes themselves. Two of them donated at the $500 level, others at $250 and $100 -- these are students who don't have a lot of money. I realized that this photography book isn't about me, but it's about them. It's so important that this project get published so that the rest of the world can read about their stories. It's not just always about the famous professional athletes, but that it should also be about the lives of these young people who come out and still play on their predominantly straight high school and college sports teams. So please support this project because it would mean a lot to them."
He shared with us the above photo of soccer player Brandon Stoneham, who wrote his story for Outsports last year. Stoneham is one of Sheng's most recent subjects, as he approaches his 200th athlete photo shoot. Sheng talked about Stoneham's photo shoot:
"When we got to the soccer fields that evening, the rugby team was using them for practice... so we improvised, jumped a 6 ft. high fence with all my photo gear, and used the school's golf course. I had Brandon kick around a soccer ball and run a bit to break into a sweat, and I started taking pictures, finishing right as it got completely dark. On the way back, Brandon asked if I had ever jumped a fence before for a photoshoot, and I had to think for a bit...since honestly, I probably have."
For Sheng, this Project has been the journey of a lifetime.
"I've done about 150 photo shoots already for this project, and every one of them has been it's own adventure.. I learned how to Cross Country ski for one, waded in a lake in Wisconsin for another, almost got frostbite photographing on a football field in Minnesota in January - I'm sure at some point, I had to hop a fence or sneak into a gym I wasn't supposed to be in.
"In the end though, this has been the most incredible journey life could have given me, meeting all these amazing young athletes who have come out to their sports teams, and being able to share their photographs and stories with all of you."
Also for the project, a video slideshow of Fearless will kick off Pride House London at the Olympics, August 3. It will then play on a loop for the people who go to Pride House. Sheng will have the video available for viewers to watch online for those that can't make it to London, and we'll bring it to you here.
Be sure to support Sheng's project. For just $10 you get your name in the book. And as we said, for $100 you get a Nike T-shirt, a copy of the book, a proof print, and your name in the book. Pretty great.