A feeling of human warmth beams from the eyes of the people in Norm Hamilton’s black and white portraits on the walls in the Guild’s Other Room.

Portraiture, for him, is more than capturing an image. It’s about “capturing the essence of that person.”

Environmental portraiture is key to his work. This means sitting down with people, talking with them and getting a feel for them.

In this body of work, Hamilton went to the places people played, out having coffee or taking a walk on the Millennium Trail. He got invited into their homes as well, and presents some candid scenes of people cooking, reading to children, brushing children’s hair, playing with dogs and researching something on a computer together.

The images include some frames of a pregnant belly and family portraits.

Abstract words like “Community”, “People” and “Love” appear on cards at intervals along the walls above the photographs.

Matted stories that relate the experiences various people have had with coming out or other aspects of being lesbian, gay or bisexual also accompany the show, printed onto paper with ripples in grey scale in the background.

Hamilton’s intent is to express to the community his belief that “regardless of our diversity, all one in our search to love and be loved.”

In his artist’s statement he invites viewers “to open their hearts to the acceptance of the love of one person for another and allow that acceptance to illuminate their vision.”

The Guild’s production of The Laramie Project triggered Hamilton’s interest.

In The Laramie Project, a theatre group went into Laramie, Wyoming, after Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, was beaten and left hanging on a fence to die. They interviewed members of the community, and those interviews form much of the script.

For Hamilton, it was “Matthew Shepard’s story more than the play itself. We had an experience where one of our kids was beaten. The result of that could have been much different than what it was. We were very fortunate. Matthew was not.”

As Hamilton read the script, he grew more and more certain that “no matter what community they went into, the results would be similar, running the gamut from totally negative to completely positive.”

Hamilton was raised in Prince George, BC. He “didn’t know about lesbians” till his late teens. But in that logging town “the common thread of thought was that gays, homosexuals, homos, should be shunned and driven away.

“I’d never been one to harm anyone even in my most redneck days. However, I also didn’t step forward to support people who were being abused and shunned.”

His experiences since then have caused him to “do a complete 180. My greatest teachers have been my spouse and my kids.”

So for this show, he says “it came to me to create a project that hopefully would inspire someone else to be more open. My own experience tells me that people can change.”

Love and Be Loved is Hamiton’s first art show of any kind.

Hamilton has lived in the Yukon for 37 years. He maintained a massage therapy practice until September, when his Authentic You portrait photography business took off enough for him to make that his main line of work.

You can see more of his work at www.normhamilton.ca.

Love and Be Loved opened Feb. 11 with The Laramie Project and will run for the length of the play, so that’s until Feb. 27, unless The Laramie Project is held over for another week.