by Ray Rico
(above photo by Adam Bouska, NOH8 founder)
Photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley made a stop in Memphis to shoot the famed NOH8 portraits. The pair and a crew of volunteers filled The Playhouse on the Square on a Saturday with eager souls waiting to be captured in what has become one of the most memorable equality campaigns, NOH8 (pronounced ‘no hate’).
I smiled as I watched folks file in to get their face ‘tattoo’ with the famous NOH8 logo, I thought how very cool and progressive to have Bouska and Parshley here in Memphis, a city rich with civil rights history.
One-by-one and group-by- group, Bouska photographed his subjects while Parshley happily helped apply the symbolic gray duct tape and directed folks in what to do. After the photo shoot, we had a moment to talk to them both.
Rico: Have you guys ever been to Memphis?
Parshley: No, this is officially our very first time in the city.
Is there anything on your “must-see” list?
Bouska: I think we got our first “must-see” down. We had our first shoot in Memphis. It was a great turnout and inspiring to see so many people.
Yes, totally inspiring. We have a great community here. Memphis is filled with some really great people. We have amazing food, southern hospitality, and a rich history including the Civil Rights movement. You two are no strangers to the struggle for equality. Can you tell our readers how NOH8 was conceived?
Bouska: NOH8 was started directly after the passage of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California (2008). Today, this community has shown us how this message speaks out to all forms of discrimination. It wouldn’t be what it was unless people continue to come forth and spread that message of NOH8.
Who were some of your most memorable photo shoots with during the NOH8 campaign?
Bouska: It wouldn’t be what it is without everyday people. But the celebrity faces definitely help to amplify our message. Some of our more fun shoots were with Jane Lynch on the set of Glee. Liza Minnelli was fun because she has such a big personality. The Kardashians were fun. Larry King.
Is there anyone that you would love to photograph but you haven’t yet?
Parshley: We’d love all the support from everyone. Either of the Obama’s, Oprah or those who have an ultimate influence.
Bouska: On occasion, we (take) NOH8 (to) the Hill and photograph congress members. We think it’s important to put their face in the fight for equality and back up their constituents. This is important, especially in today’s hateful society. It’s important that we continue to reiterate the message of NOH8.
Clearly, NOH8 has also traveled the world supporting equality in lots of different places. There are some countries that frown on LGBT rights. Was there one country that stood out to you more than another and why?
Bouska: I’d have to say Singapore because homosexuality is criminalized essentially. So, to be there and to see people line up for a cause like this really speaks volumes. NOH8 is not just a moment, it’s a movement. It’s something that anyone can be a part of. No matter what language you speak, I think that everyone identifies with that (NOH8) logo.
Adam, You’ve been described as a “superstar photographer” in the gay community. If you could give one bit of advice to someone who looks up to you, what would you tell them?
Bouska: I’d say be yourself. Follow your heart and follow your passions. If you stay true to yourself, it will all make sense in the end. Stay confident and believe in what you’re doing. For me, that has always proved to be true. You’ll inspire people that you don’t even know you’re inspiring.
Parshley: I just want to add that is something he (Bouska) may have done that he doesn’t even realize, that using his talents to create something that is so meaningful. We all have our talents and his (Bouska’s) is photography. So if we can all use our specific talents to create something meaningful there would be a lot more movements like this around the world.
I’ve been following NOH8 for the better part of a decade now, online and in social media, and think what you’re doing is inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I’d like to end on this question. What is your proudest moment during the NOH8 Campaign?
Parshley: For me, it was taking the campaign back to my hometown, back to my high school, where I wasn’t even out when I went there.
Where is your hometown?
Parshley: Hudson, New Hampshire. It’s a red state. We’ve brought the campaign back there twice now. By not being out in high school it took courage to go back there… It was just a really great feeling!
Bouska: For me, it’s to be able to stand here today and say that we’ve done this for ten years and we’re still going strong…The fact that we are creating change in our own community and that we are a part of that and that we can continue makes me feel proud today…
Parshley: Something else I thought of that I’m proud of. Adam and I have changed the hearts and minds within our own families…I’d say we’re not only changing hearts and minds around the world but within our own families.
What a pleasure it was to have them here. (Special thanks to AniKatrina Fageol for helping to organize the visit.) For more information on #NOH8 visit noh8campaign.com.