It’s impolite to stare. But when it comes to severely injured soldiers, maybe we don’t look enough; or maybe we’d rather not see wounded veterans at all.
That’s the message you get from photographer David Jay’s Unknown Soldier series. Jay spent three years taking portraits of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but before that — for nearly 20 years — he was a fashion photographer. His stylish, artful images appeared in magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
“The fashion stuff is beautiful and sexy — and completely untrue,” he says.
Truth became the focus of Jay’s work for the first time about 10 years ago, when he started The SCAR Project, a series of portraits of women, naked from the waist up, with mastectomy scars. Around the time he was taking those photos, he was also trying to comprehend the news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and 'this many were injured,’” Jay says, “and we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”
David Jay founded AVEN. This doesn’t make him the inventor of asexuality or the Aro/Ace Pope. AVEN has been an important nucleus for a growing nebula of aro and ace communities, and any community problems that occur within AVEN’s leadership or on its forums will likely have to be addressed even among aces and aros with no ties to the organization, but David Jay does not even try to define the community at large, or steer community discussions on the AVEN forums (as of a few years ago, the last time I looked at the forums).
It’s really not appropriate to call David Jay straight or heteroromantic, because he calls himself neither of those things and has talked openly about desiring and being open to partner relationships with men. A man dating women more often than men does not actually make him straight. (I’m not sure whether David Jay would strictly describe the various intimacies of his personal relationships as “dating”, but my point stands.) As far as I know, David Jay has never used a romantic orientation label for himself.
Bringing criticism of David Jay’s activism/advocacy &c. to the attention of ace and aro communities make sense. But if you want someone to answer for or explain his actions… the best person to do that is probably David Jay. He has a social media presence. He doesn’t seem to have abundant time to use it, but if you have a legitimate question or concern about something he’s done, and you can express it without harassment, you could probably try bringing it to him. Personally, I don’t know him, I’m not involved in AVEN, and I don’t feel obliged to interrogate him regarding the various accusations about him that circulate around Tumblr periodically.
Discussing David Jay’s relationship with increasingly decentralized ace/aro communities is pretty much the last thing I want to do, but there a “receipt” post going around Tumblr about him incorporating the “f-slur” into the name of an LGBTQ sort of student organization years ago, and the same organization categorically including people who practice BDSM, and some of the notes on it gave me the impression this needed clearing up. (I haven’t attempted to verify the content of the post.)