The video opening for the Family Portraits Kickstarter draws you in right from the start. Sam appears waving before the camera, then wearing a sweater vest, button down shirt and glasses he addresses the camera saying: “Hi, my name’s Sam and I’ve been drawing since I was a little girl.”
Using different comic styles, Sam’s new project tells the stories of different groups of people across New Zealand. Says Sam, “There are a range of stories in Family Portraits–mostly focusing on the lives of every-day people, some of the stories are about them discovering their gender, some are about falling in love, some are about coming out, or [being] from a migrant community and trying to explain their identity across different ethnicities, or dealing with life before homosexuality was legalised in New Zealand. Each story comes from real peoples experiences, from me sitting down and chatting with people, and drawing the story from there. I feel really grateful to the people who I asked, and who shared their experiences with me–there’re some really incredible stories in this series.”
The goal of the campaign is to print the first two issues in the series and to send Sam on a tour to meet American readers. According to From Earth’s End, the series was originally produced in full color, but that made it cost prohibitive to print.
His previous projects include his web comic, Rooster Tails, exploring his life as a queer trans guy with his partner, Joe. Started in 2010, the weekly web is often funny when dealing with topics most of us can related to like “How I Feel in Hipster Places” but equally good with more emotionally charged ones like how to handle being “Mis-Pronounced” as a transgendered person.
With Family Portraits, Sam hopes that the series will open up conversations for all types of people and families, traditional and nontraditional alike. “I watch a lot of tv and film growing up, and I was always searching for people like me, people who I could relate to, and people who could be role models for me, so I could know it was ok to be me. Unfortunately a lot of the stories in mainstream media scandalise our lives, or show us to be mad, bad or sad. Drawing comics and telling these stories is a way to explore and celebrate difference, instead of equating difference with something negative. I am really hoping that this series will help connect our community/ies together, and also open up people’s minds about all the many different stories that exist in our communities.”