Jeff Sheng (born 1980) is an American artist, activist and photographer based in Los Angeles. He teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Art Studio department and the Asian American studies department.

He is most notable for his photographic series "Fearless" which are portraits of athletes on high school and college sports teams who also openly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. He began photographing the series in 2003, and in 2006, began speaking about and exhibiting the work at colleges across the United States as part of, an endeavor to place "Fearless" in non-traditional art venues such as student centers and college gyms so that large groups of college students could see the activist project and think about the way homophobia adversely affects society, particularly in sports.[1] From 2006-2008, the exhibition series was seen at over 25 colleges across the United States including Yale University, Columbia University, Rice College, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Florida, Indiana University, and Dartmouth College.[2] In early 2008, he had his first exhibitions located in high schools: Thetford Academy Secondary School in Vermont, and San Ramon High School in Northern California.[3]

Sheng grew up in Southern California, but began photography during his first year in college at Harvard University. He majored in photography and filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department, and studied under the mentorship of British photographer Chris Killip, graduating magna cum laude with highest honors in 2002. After graduation, Sheng interned for NYC gallerist and photography collector Bill Hunt ( and briefly assisted for the celebrity/fashion photographer Greg Gorman in Los Angeles. His first major break came when he was 23 years old, when the New York Times Magazine asked him to photograph editorially Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonauto for an in-depth article written by David J. Garrow about the struggle over the legalization of same-sex marriage in both Massachusetts and the United States.[4]

While at first influenced by the snapshot technique of personal documentary portraiture found in the work of Nan Goldin, Sheng's photography has been noted to have a "distinctively Los Angelean flair - think warm colors, sprays of light and blue skies - and an aesthetic that looks to find beauty in the intimate and personal.".[5] Others have also compared his work to Richard Avedon and Bruce Weber, and more recently, August Sander and Rineke Dijkstra.[6] Besides "Fearless," his other two photographic projects include "Thesis Album," and "Revolutions of Memory." "Thesis Album," a small photo album consisting of sixty 4" by 6" photographs and just half a page of writing, was his summa cum laude undergraduate thesis that Sheng submitted to Harvard in 2002 for his BA degree. "Revolutions of Memory" is a series of large panoramic digitally constructed images, that deal with history, identity, location and trauma. One of the images from the series includes a panoramic 40 ft. wide by 6 ft high, taken from the spot and vantage point where the anti-gay hate crime/murder victim Matthew Shepard was found on a fence post outside Laramie, Wyoming.Where Matthew Lay Dying [7]

Sheng received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine. He is the recipient of a Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellowship and a Paul and Daisy Soros New Americans Fellowship. He is also part of LA 25 a group of LA-based young artists curated by the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, that feature these artists in a series of prominent exhibitions in the Los Angeles area in late 2008.[8]

In August 2008, he will be in China working on a photography series and online blog project about the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and is collaborating on this with close friend and colleague John Amaechi.

External linksEdit


  1. Griffin, Pat (November 12 2007). The Fearless Campus Tour – Photo Exhibit of LGBT Athletes.
  2. Bukowski, Thomas (2007-10-24). Photographer focuses lens on gay athletes. The Dartmouth.
  3. Blevins, Lea (April 17 2008). Exhibit of gay athletes displayed at San Ramon Valley High.
  4. Garrow, David J. (May 9 2004). Toward a More Perfect Union. The New York Times.
  5. Cantagallo, Dan (April 14 2000). Show-off. The Harvard Crimson.
  6. Hull, James (February 15 2002). Once upon a time.... Green Street Gallery.
  7. Sheng, Jeff (2007). Where Matthew Lay Dying Laramie, Wyoming 2007.
  8. Muchnic, Suzanne (July 7 2006). Giving Local Artists a Good First Shot.

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