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The Open Photo Project: Inside the Lives of Consensually Non-Monogamous People

"There are so many assumptions that people have. People assume that we’re not committed or that one of us is being taken advantage of."

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Written by Erika Kapin.

Photos by Erika Kapin.

The Open Photo Project offers an intimate look into the lives of consensually non-monogamous people. By showing their private moments, domestic details, and daily life, it shows the uniqueness of human relationships. Featuring images by photographer Erika Kapin and words from a multitude of polyamorous people and relationship structures, The Open Photo Project seeks to de-stigmatize consensually non-monogamous relationships by cultivating understanding and respect. 

 “Our oldest was taking some instrument a couple years ago. She says that the music teacher asked her, ‘Who listens to you practice at home?’ And she’s like, ‘My mom, my dad, my step-mom, my siblings.’ And the teacher’s like, ‘Oh your mom and your step mom in the same house?’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah. They’re Bi. It’s okay.’ I was like, ‘Oh, lord, we are gonna get a phone call home from the music teacher!’” —Shallena

So, in addition to identifying as polyamorous, I identify as queer. I identify as a pervert. I identify as kinky and submissive. Oh, and I identify as a femme. And all of those things come into my relationships at this point in the way that I’m interested in crafting relationships with people.” —Jessica

With kids, their normal is normal, and it’s only later that you start to get the broader societal stuff—and we haven’t hit that yet. I have one daughter and she’s six. Every once in a while, I make a point of asking her what she thinks grownups do on dates, just to see what she says.  She thinks we eat snacks and watch videos.” —Megan

“My prominent [self-identitifcation] is being black; the second prominent is being a woman, being intelligent, being disabled, being fat, and also being a femme sometimes. So, I identify with all those things.”

“What it took for me to be out—which, it’s kind of unfortunate that it took this—it took being diagnosed with breast cancer. December 2013 was when I was diagnosed. Shortly after that, it just kind of hit me that life is really short, you know? Even though they caught the cancer really early—it was stage 0. But, still, it reminded me of how short life is. I decided from that point on that I was going to be out and proud, so now I am a bisexual activist and polyamorous educator.” —Gloria

“My prominent [self-identitifcation] is being black; the second prominent is being a woman, being intelligent, being disabled, being fat, and also being a femme sometimes. So, I identify with all those things. I struggle with my sexuality because of my religion, which is not uncommon. I’ve grown from Christianity to spirituality because I feel like I don’t have space to exist in my religion. It is unfortunate, but a reality.” —Brittany

“The idea that I have a wife that I love, and two girlfriends that I love, it doesn’t phase [my daughter] at all. All she knows is there are more responsible adults that care about her and will get her snacks upon request.” —Kevin

“A lot of places have cohabitation laws. In my household there are no children but I do know polycules that live together that do have kids. This is a concern because if you have nosy neighbors that notice there are a bunch of adults coming in and out, and there are also kids… if you get Child Protective Services called on you, and then there’s also cohabitation laws in your county, that can really screw with you. You could go to court for it.  You could get your kid taken away for it. It’s a big deal.” —Kiera

“Being a survivor [of sexual assault], being poly, and being kinky have been very important tools for my survivorship and my healing because I get to navigate different feelings and different things with different people. It’s not a secret; there’s no shame in it. One of my biggest life’s work is to undo shame and undo secrecy, which was a big part of my young life because I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and rape as a teenager, so being honest, truthful and not holding shame for my desires is super important—being a survivor and then being able to intentionally be loving or nasty or [laughs] whatever it is I want to be.” —Ignacio

“One of the things I would wish for, if I had three wishes and a genie, is that poly relationships became boring as dirt—a non-starter, just like monogamous relationships are boring.”

“I was a side chick…. That’s what my mom thought I was. I mean, that’s how she took it because they was already married and I was coming in. Now, she’s cool. It just took her a little bit. It was what it was, so she would accept me or that was her loss.” —Sonya

One of the biggest hurdles is that people assume I don’t love Anna because we’re non-monogamous. There are so many assumptions that people have. People assume that we’re not committed or that one of us is being taken advantage of.” —Brian

“One of the things I would wish for, if I had three wishes and a genie, is that poly relationships became boring as dirt—a non-starter, just like monogamous relationships are boring. You don’t hear about your friend who’s monogamous. You just hear about your friend who is married.  That’s how I want it to be for poly folks. I want it to be dull. I want it to be background noise.” —Xtina

“Right now, I only have one romantic partner: Kevin. I am also kinky, and so I have a couple of casual partners that I engage in kink activities with. We’re more [like] friends that happen to do kinky stuff together on occasion. Also, right now, I have a really good relationship with most of my metamours. I feel like I’m in a very fortunate place right now. I’d like to have another romantic partner but I feel like our poly is really smooth right now.” —Antoinette

Keep up with The Open Photo Project on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


About the Author

Erika Kapin (she/her) is a photographer who loves to share the stories of people, their relationships with the world, and their relationships with each other. Born in Seattle, Washington, Erika moved to NYC in 2005. Erika has studied and worked as a teaching assistant at International Center of Photography. Currently living in New York City, Erika continues to work on her personal projects and professional projects in creative portraiture and documentary photography. Erika identifies as queer and polyamorous and began this project in 2014 shortly after beginning to live openly as a polyamorous person.

Follow on IG: @ErikaKapin


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