Who says #Menday can't be socially relevant?
More than five years since its inception, the NOH8 Campaign has grown to over 33,000 faces and continues to grow at an exponential rate. The campaign began with portraits of everyday Californians from all walks of life and soon rose to include politicians, military personnel, newlyweds, law enforcement, artists, celebrities, and many more. It has become an iconic brand and in addition to sharing poweful, visual statements, funds raised by NOH8 are used to promote and raise awareness for Marriage Equality and anti-discrimination on a global level.
And as I am huge advocate for Marriage Equality and equal rights, I jumped on an opportunity to interview NOH8 founders, Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley. It's taken a bit of time to connect but I am so honored and grateful they took the time. They are heroes to me.
Q: How did the style of your photos (the logo + white shirt and background + duct tape) come about?
A: When we were originally toying with the concepts of what would ultimately become the signature NOH8 look, we wanted to find a simple way to illustrate the way we felt. We felt like our voices were being forcibly silenced by Prop 8, so we came up with the visual of subjects being silenced with duct tape while their protest of "NOH8" spoke past the tape. We chose plain white shirts against a plain white background to put the focus on each person as an individual and the connection through their eyes.
Q: When you first started taking these photos, did you intend for them to become such a polarizing component of the fight for gay rights?
A: We like to call ourselves accidental activists. We never intended to create a campaign, we were just looking for a way to speak out on our social media the best way we knew how. It wasn't until we posted our own photos and had friends reach out wanting to do photos and get involved that we realized NOH8 was taking on a life of its own; something bigger than just the two of us. So many people were looking for a way to express their feelings on how Prop 8 affected them, and NOH8 became a way for them to sum up their feelings through just one picture.
Q: You’ve photographed “regular people,” celebrities, politicians – even dogs and cats. Have there been any real surprises in your shoots? Anyone who showed up and blew you away?
A: There have been so many touching moments for us over the years. One of the great things about NOH8 photos is that everybody brings their own individuality and their own story, and it's been amazing to meet so many people and learn about why the fight for equal rights matters to them. The issue really is so relative, as everybody can relate to being discriminated against or bullied for being themselves. It doesn't matter if you're a celebrity or not; everybody has their own unique network of friends, family, and peers that they can share their message of support with. One of the most surprising photos for us was Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain), which is why it was so it was important for us to tell her story and show that support of equality is not a party issue. And her story was just one of thousands!
Q: What would you still like to accomplish? What lies ahead for the next five years?
A: In just over five years, we've taken over 35,000 NOH8 photos in 45 states and 17 countries, and we can only hope to achieve as much in the next five years as we have in the first five. There is still a lot of hate in the world, and we plan on continuing to spread the message anywhere and everywhere we can until all people across the world are treated equally.
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Adam and Jeff, you've won my heart. Thank you for all that you do.