This week I talked with Jeff Parshley and his partner, celebrity photographer Adam Bouska, creators of the NOH8 Campaign. On Sunday, Dec. 15, the NOH8 Campaign will celebrate its fifth anniversary at Avalon in Hollywood. The NOH8 Campaign is the photographic silent protest created by Bouska and Parshley in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8 back in 2008. The iconic photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8, with "NOH8" painted on one cheek. Through social media, and with a new app, this movement has included over 33,000 faces and continues to grow at an exponential rate worldwide. The campaign started with portraits of everyday Californians from all walks of life and soon embraced politicians, military personnel, newlyweds, law enforcement, artists, celebrities, and many more.
I talked with Bouska and Parshley about how their grassroots organization has expanded to advance global LGBT equality, and about their spin on LGBT issues. When asked about their personal commitment to LGBT civil rights, Bouska stated:
For me, when I got involved and Jeff got involved, we weren't really looking to be activists; we weren't really looking to start a campaign. We had an opportunity to share our story. Growing up in a small town in central Illinois, I didn't have much media representation and much to look up to. In the media these days we have the power to control what others see, and with social media we have the power to control what to put out there. So being a photographer and having that ability, we want to raise awareness to put a face in sight, and wanted to increase the awareness surrounding these issues by involving as many people as we can.
We weren't activists. We weren't looking to be activists. It just kind of happened. It was an accident. People started interpreting the message and sharing the message and speaking out. I think that today our commitment is to sharing stories of LGBT and allies just to kind of make a connection within everybody. You'd be surprised how many people said, "Well, Prop 8 doesn't really affect me in California, so either way it goes is fine, because it really doesn't matter." But when they know that someone that they love is affected, it's like "six degrees of separation." We have to connect everybody to show that we're all in this together and we're all really affected by stuff, even though not directly.
The NOH8 Campaign, an approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has received overwhelming support from around the world. The images are widely used on various social networking sites to spread the message of LGBT equality. The next NOH8 photo shoot will take place on World Aids Day (Dec. 1) at the new NOH8 headquarters at 2601 N. San Fernando Blvd. in Burbank, Calif., from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The NOH8 Fifth Anniversary Celebration, set to take place Dec. 15 at Avalon, located at 1735 Vine Street in Los Angeles, Calif., is a free event, co-sponsored by Wen Hair & Body Care by Chaz Dean.
For more information on the NOH8 Campaign, visit noh8campaign.com.
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