UPDATE: Due to the anticipated large turn-out for the Houston shoot, the NOH8 campaign has extended hours from 3-8 p.m.
A picture, so the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, though, a single word says it all (if we’re talking acronyms and abbreviations: NOH8.
The NOH8 “photographic silent protest,” in town Thursday, was created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley in response to Proposition 8 in California, which amended the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court struck down the ban earlier this year, deeming it unconstitutional. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected in the future. (The shoot is hosted by the UH Council of Ethnic Organizations.)
“Adam and I were not activists prior to Prop. 8,” says Parshley. “I was working as a general manager of a bar in West Hollywood, and Adam was full-time with his photography business. After the second year of NOH8, we realized we couldn’t take the campaign to the level we wanted with our focus elsewhere. We committed our full attention to the campaign in January 2010 and have been going 24-7 since.”
Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest.
Proceeds are used to promote and raise awareness for marriage equality and anti-discrimination through NOH8’s interactive media campaign. This includes bringing the campaign to other cities around the country, as well as compiling the images for a large-scale media campaign.
Celebrities who have posed include Pete Wentz, Kim Kardashian, Jane Lynch, Miley Cyrus, Leann Rimes, Darryl McDaniels of Run–D.M.C., Lindsay Lohan, Kathy Griffin, Taye Diggs and Nicole Scherzinger.
The event is first come, first served. You’ll sign a release, receive a NOH8 temporary tattoo and listen for your number. The tattoo will be applied to your face, along with silver duct tape across your mouth. Bouska will take 5-10 frames of each person and retouch the final selection. Subjects are asked to wear a white shirt. Photos will be available in about eight weeks via www.NOH8Campaign.com.
How has the focus of the NOH8 campaign changed in response to Prop. 8 rulings?
The NOH8 Campaign was created in response to the passing of Prop. 8 here in California but has since grown to encompass any form of discrimination and bullying. If one person’s rights are at risk, anyone’s right can be at risk one day. We are all human, and we deserve to be treated equally on all levels. No matter what.
Who was the first celebrity to come onboard with the campaign?
The first familiar face that posed for the NOH8 Campaign was Kristen Cavallari from “The OC.” The NOH8 campaign has grown through the ripple affect. Once people use their photos, they create a dialogue. That gives the person a chance to explain what their photo means and why they have it. Hopefully, after that conversation, they realize they should lend their face to the fight for equality, too.
Is there anyone in particular you’d love to have pose?
Every face counts so ideally, everyone would pose for a photo. Obviously, if a sitting president would pose for a photo that would be huge for us. We try to remind everyone that they have influence in their own right. Everyone has the ability to change hearts and minds, and the best way to do this is through dialogue.
You’ve come close to Houston in the past. Why was it important to finally get here?
Our goal is to have a presence in all 50 states. We are up to 43. Adam and I are both from small towns, so we know what it’s like to not have an outlet or that support group that is so desperately needed for our youth. We pride ourselves on listening to our supporters. We ask them where they think we should go, and that’s where we go. Dallas was our largest photo shoot to date with 842 people posing for photos. Houston is set to beat that record with almost 1600 RSVPs on the Facebook event page.
Several famous Houstonians – Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, Houston Texans player Connor Barwin – have rallied for LGBT rights.
We would love all of their support. I’m pretty sure Solange is following NOH8 on Twitter. Maybe we will try to reach out to her before we get there.
What have been the biggest challenges to the NOH8 photo campaign?
The only hurdles have been opposition from within our own community. Everyone has their own idea of how they would do things. Everyone can interpret art differently. This is how we express ourselves. We need to come together to realize that we are all fighting for the same thing. Some of us just do it differently.
What are a few tips on ensuring a great photo?
Even though there are now 35,000 photos, they each seem so different. Every person has their own unique style, and that’s what we like to see. Make it your own. We understand that a lot of the people are not models, but the everyday person is the foundation of this campaign. And if you need a little guidance in front of the camera, Adam won’t leave you hanging.
NOH8 Photo Shoot
When: 4-7 p.m. Thursday
Where: University of Houston — Central, 282 University Center
Price: Solo portraits are $40, couple and group portraits are $25 per person; 832-842-6260 or noh8campaign.com