It was only after Sage Sohier had been photographing gay and lesbian couples in the mid-1980s that she realized she had a personal connection to the topic. Her father, a World War II veteran and a Boston lawyer, had left her mother when she was a toddler, never remarried, but had live-in boyfriends on and off for the rest of his life.
He never admitted he was gay. Ms. Sohier recalls having dinner with him a few times in New York as a teenager. “There was a woman he had a long-term relationship with he almost married,” she said. “But then, during sort of the same time, some young men started coming to dinner with him.”
In retrospect, she now says the photographs she took of same-sex couples starting in that era were her way of connecting to him. Those images comprise “At Home With Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America”.
So Ms. Sohier decided to commit to this as a long-term project and travel across the country, advertising for couples in gay newspapers. She would talk to prospective subjects by phone and set up a session.
“Usually we would hang out and talk for half an hour or longer and I would get a sense of what they were like as people, what they were like together, how they interacted,” she said.
Sometimes the interview came first, other times she would start with the photographs. Sometimes she would start on their porch, other times in their bedroom. Because she keeps everything in the frame in focus, these photographs — even without the people — could stand as portraits. Each room is filled with information about its inhabitants.
Lloyd and Joel were a San Francisco couple in their mid-40s when she photographed them in 1987. High school sweethearts and together for 25 years, they were also “in a threesome with John,” Ms. Sohier noted.
They embraced in front of a modern fireplace in the center of a room adorned with pictures, rugs and two upholstered chairs. “I don’t remember how this came about, but I doubt that I would have asked them to kiss each other — unless they already had, and I either caught the moment or asked them if they’d do it again,” she said.
In 1987, in Key West, Fla., she photographed George and Tom. During the first interview, George told her, “We agreed when we got together that it would be forever.”
And when she returned to photograph them 15 years later, they were still together.
When she arrived at her father’s house in New York, she took the portfolio but didn’t think she would have the nerve to show it. But Lee made sandwiches and eventually she took out her photos.
“After I showed my father the pictures, he teared up, he looked moved, and seemed grateful,” she said. “There was a sense of relief. I felt that I was sort of saying to him that I understood what was going on and that I was O.K. with it.”
Mr. Sohier, who never mentioned he was gay, died in 2008 at 83 from cancer. According to his obituary, he was “an accomplished pianist, a connoisseur of the arts, and a voracious reader,” who was also “feisty to the end.”
“If you knew my father, he was a man of his generation and did not talk easily about his feelings,” Ms. Sohier said. “But still, I could see this really moved him.”