Three years ago, Eric Edward Schell started Pride Portraits, a Houston-based nonprofit photography studio dedicated to giving people a platform to tell their own story. He began taking photos of individuals to show the unification of not being afraid to celebrate pride after the horrific Pulse shooting and he was soon overcome with the outpouring of support his project received.
The concept is simple enough: Photograph LGBTQIA+ individuals in front of a Jackson Pollock-like background, painted by Houston-based artist Hugo Perez, and get them to answer, “What do you want the world to know about you?” And with that small idea, the Pride Portraits campaign took off and has provided more visibility and representation than Eric could’ve ever imagined. So far, he has photographed more than 5,000 people around the country and been profiled by People Magazine, ABC, partnered with Facebook, The FBI and Human Rights Campaign and more.
Born in El Salvador, Eric’s family moved to San Francisco before moving to New York and finally setting up residence in Houston to be closer to his family. He never considered he’d be a resident in the South but Eric has fallen in love with Houston. He recently opened up about his favorites spots, venues and what makes Houstonians so supportive.
What has been the impact Pride Portraits has been on you?
The initiative has reached almost 50 countries around the world on Facebook, many of which homosexuality isn’t accepted, and if I can give solace to one person struggling, it is all worth it.
What do you like about the city?
I really enjoy The Eagle – it is a good neighbor bar that is very inclusive. But I think the best thing, is any given week, you can open look online and someone like Laverne Cox, Karamo Brown, Nancy Pelosi, etc. will be here because people see how diverse Houston is and want to just come here and talk about what is going on the world.
What are some hidden gems in the city that more people should know more about?
The University of Houston College of Social Work is constantly bringing in world-renown speakers and it is open to the public. There are so many great coffee shops here and I love to go to Blacksmith Coffee. It used to be the iconic Houston bar Mary’s that closed years ago and I love it for the history.
What do you think is the best part of the LGBT scene in Houston?
There are so many diverse groups and organizations that make us feel very well supported. I can go anywhere in the city and find a sense of community.
What is one thing a visitor should do when they come to Houston?
Get your Pride Portrait done!