Saturday, July 21, 2012

NOH8 Photo Shoot an Astounding Success

Written by Chris Jarvis...Photos Courtesy Brian Putnam

I first started an open communication with the NOH8 Campaign in March of 2011. Gay Central Valley wanted to get the group to Fresno to do one of their internationally famous photo shoots. Over the next few months we went back and forth, trying to nail down a date to get them here. After months and months of not being able to reach an agreement, in December of 2011 I sent out one last try. 

"We'll go with any date you have available in 2012," I told Chris at NOH8, "we just want to get you guys here."

They came back with the date of July 13th and we grabbed it. The Facebook event page went up shortly afterwards and week by week, month by month the RSVP's grew. The reactions of those on Facebook were an amazing thing to watch. People were unbelievably excited about the event. Having the NOH8 group come to Fresno was a special gift for so many people that wanted to participate but couldn't get to shoots in other cities. By the time July 13th finally came around, our Facebook event page was bursting with almost 800 RSVP's. When I finally got to meet Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, the founders of NOH8, the morning of the event, they asked me how many I expected. I told them about the Facebook numbers and then guessed attendance would be around 500, hoping that would be the case. 

It was an unbelievable day. We arrived at 3PM to set up and shortly afterwards, people were already lining up outside, despite the intense heat and the fact that the shoot didn't start until 5PM. We started letting people in around 4:15PM and the sea of white shirts started flowing through the doors. Soon, we were deluged by people of all walks of life. The air conditioner in the large room at The Big Red Church struggled to keep up with the body count and we had to run out to bring in a couple of industrial fans to compensate. People filled out their release forms, waited in line for a temporary tattoo, then sat down to wait for their number to be called. 

Adam and Jeff set up in a small room connected to the large hall and started taking photos. One by one, people lined up, moved into the smaller room and had duck tape applied over their mouths. After stepping in front of a large white backdrop, Adam would instantly direct them, individuals, couples and groups, into specific poses and attitudes. He was "on" from the minute each and every person stepped in front of him. He'd snap several photos in several poses and then was even gracious enough to walk over and show the images he'd snapped. Adam never took a break over the course of 5 hours. He never lost his smile, his sense of humor and his passion for what he does. It was an amazing thing to see.

Despite the long wait that many had to endure, at no time did I feel anything but a friendly, joyous vibe in the room. This was an event so many had waited so long for, and everyone was sensing the happiness. I spoke to a friend who brought his family, a group of about 12 to take a group photo. Another woman came with a family brigade of 20 who told my husband James how much the day meant to her, that she'd cried when President Obama came out for same sex marriage, then told him how she'd explained the importance of the message to her entire family. Children's eyes were alive as they looked over our Rainbow Flags and Rainbow Delegation bracelets, babies, all dressed up for the occasion, were cradled and soothed by parents. Two female friends who moved away from Fresno drove over from the coast with their one year old. He wasn't a happy camper, so I stood behind Adam while he took their photo and shook toys to get his attention. It was enough to stop his crying so a great picture could be taken. Jeff Robinson brought 29 people to take a group photo toward the end of the day. When I asked him how Adam pulled it off, he laughed and said he was a pro, bringing in chairs and anything else to make it work. The diversity of family in the room was stunning. Individuals came alone and with friends. Drag queens strode through the room fanning themselves against the heat, still looking perfect and manicured. 

Gary with MAC Cosmetics set up a station on the side and touched up faces throughout the day. Ron set up a hair station and touched up coifs for the event. Jose De Loza set up his guitar and microphone in the corner of the room and proceeded to sing and play for the huge crowd. The NOH8 group was beyond gracious. Every request I found myself making to them for one thing or another was accepted and followed through on. Pat, our church coordinator, despite our pushing the envelope on scheduled time, couldn't have been more accommodating in allowing us flexibility. Media teams from all the local news stations were present and were respectful with each other and the crowd. It's rare to be in a room with that many people and to feel so at one with each other. 

In the end, 500 pictures were indeed taken. It's a day that I, and many others, will never forget. And we'll be reminded in about 8 weeks when we get our photos back and Facebook is flooded with new images...

Visit Gay Central Valley's websites and our Facebook page for more photos...

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