The first thing you notice about 36-year-old Brooklyn editorial and commercial photographer Gabriela Herman, who goes by Gab, is how comfortable she is in her skin. That wasn’t always the case. When she was a teenager, her parents divorced when her mother, a lesbian, came out of the closet. Gab was traumatized. “We didn’t talk about it,” she says — not just then, but for years after.
Now she’s totally out there about it, thanks to a personal project she started when she was 29. Partly through Colage, an organization that supports people with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents, Gab interviewed and photographed people with stories similar to her own.
“In the beginning, I joked that it was like therapy. I’d never met anyone whose parent was gay, so in the beginning there were lots of tears, lots of, ‘OMG, you said that? You felt that? I did, too!’”
In 2015 she wrote an article about her experience in The New York Times, sharing her own story as well as those of some of the people she interviewed. “When I started the project, I literally couldn’t say the words out loud that my mom is gay. I went from that to shouting it to the world in the Times piece. Now I’m even having conversations with my siblings about it, which I’ve never done before.”
In September she will publish her story and those of the 85 people she interviewed and photographed in a book called The Kids: The Children of LGBTQ Parents in the USA (The New Press). She’s hopeful that it will help normalize the experience of having a gay parent for future generations.
The Kids is the fifth book published featuring Gab’s photography. In April the cookbook King Solomon’s Table, by Joan Nathan (Knopf), a collection of Jewish recipes for which Gab did the photography, was published just in time for Passover. It’s the third cookbook she has photographed for, which is fitting, since the roots of Gab’s photographic success can be found in Beetlebung Farm on Martha’s Vineyard.
Gab grew up in Boston and summered on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, where, as a girl, she met Chris Fischer, whose family has owned Beetlebung Farm for generations. Nearly 10 years ago while living in New York City and working as a photographer’s assistant, she sublet her apartment and spent the summer on the Vineyard. She palled around with Chris, who had recently returned to the farm after cooking in top restaurants in Europe and New York.
All summer Gab took photos of life on the farm. Here, her style crystallized: informal, with lots of gorgeous natural light and a mix of portrait, landscape and food shots. As a chef, Chris embraced the farm-to-table zeitgeist early on, setting up tables made of driftwood and the odd board in the greenhouse with bales of hay for seating. “The farm workers and I would sit in the greenhouse and have a lunch of what was just harvested,” Gab recalls. “It was the very beginning of the farm-to-table movement.”
After about three summers of shooting at Beetlebung Farm, Gab had amassed a huge body of work on food and farming, which at the time was new and different. “I whittled down thousands of images to about 20, made them into a PDF, and sent it to family and friends with a note saying, ‘Hey, check out what I’ve been doing.’ I wasn’t looking to get anything out of it.
That PDF got passed around a lot, and I got a call out of the blue from a photo editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine saying they had a shoot in Maine they thought I would be perfect for.” She hopped a plane immediately to photograph an apple orchard, and her first professional shoot became a 10-page feature in the magazine that would launch her career.
Gab knows that to succeed professionally, establishing relationships is crucial, so after the orchard story ran she made an appointment to meet with Martha Stewart editors. Without a proper portfolio to show them, she got creative.
Gab lined a tin box she found at a flea market with gingham fabric reminiscent of a picnic tablecloth and nestled inside it 50 prints of Beetlebung Farm. The editors loved it and decided to publish them in a photo story. It cemented her relationship with Martha Stewart and led to many assignments with other magazines, including Condé Nast Traveler, Cosmopolitan and Town & Country. It also led to commercial jobs for such companies as Airbnb, Cover Girl, Google and the Travel Channel.
Not long after the farm feature ran in Martha Stewart, Gab and Chris pitched the idea of a cookbook to an agent, who sold it to Little, Brown and Company. The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook was published in 2015, won a James Beard award, and was named one of the year’s top cookbooks by Bon Appétit.
A year before the book was published, Gab and her husband, Tyson Evans, a journalist, had married on Martha’s Vineyard, and Chris catered their simple, elegant wedding fête, which was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings. These days Gab balances work with caring for Mia, her 1-year-old daughter. Her hectic schedule doesn’t keep her from concocting personal projects.
Throughout her career she’s worked on photo essays that explore topics of interest to her, such as bloggers and rodeo queens. “All my projects have been about things I’m closely tied to,” she says, although she’s yet to do a project on Brazil.
Her mother is Brazilian, and throughout her life, she’s spent a great deal of time in San Paulo. “Being Brazilian is who I am, but I’ve never explored that photographically. Whether it’s going to be photographing Brazilians living in New York or traveling to Brazil and doing something there, I don’t know yet.”
Photos by Gabriela Herman
This article first appeared in the July/August 2017 print issue of Click Magazine. Order print or digital single issues from the Click & Company Store. Or better yet, get a 1-year subscription so you never miss an issue!