Since its inception in 2008, the NoH8 Campaign has taken over 33,000 photos to increase awareness for same-sex marriage and create a community that stands against bullying and discrimination. The familiar white T-shirt, duct tape and red-and-black NoH8 symbol is making its way to the Gay Community Center of Richmond on Saturday afternoon. Jeff Parshley, the campaign’s co-founder, took a few moments to tell us how the whole thing started, what to expect and how he and his partner, award-winning photographer Adam Bouska, met.
Richmond magazine: You started NoH8 in 2010 in opposition to Prop 8 (since overturned). A lot has happened in the last seven years. How has it evolved, as more states are legalizing same-sex marriage?
Parshley: We actually took the first photo for the NOH8 Campaign in November of 2008, right after the passing of Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage here in California. The NoH8 Campaign was started in response to the passing of Prop 8, but quickly grew to encompass any form of discrimination or inequality. So many people were posing for their own reason, we knew there was a larger message there.
RM: How did you two meet?
Parshley: I hired Adam as a photographer to work with me on a calendar benefiting AIDS Project Los Angeles. We spent nearly three months constructing the calendar and never left each others’ sides since. Adam is from a small town in central Illinois and I am from an equally small town in southern New Hampshire.
RM: This year is an anniversary of sorts. Where do you see it going in five more years?
Parshley: We always say this is just the beginning when it comes to the potential of the NoH8 Campaign. Hate is not just a problem in California or in the United States, for that matter. Hate is an issue worldwide, and people all over the world can relate to the message of NoH8. We have already been to 18 countries with the campaign and have more scheduled this year. Luckily for us, photos don’t need to be translated. So when someone poses, they take on the responsibility of sharing the message of NoH8 with their friends and family, in their own, for their own reason.
RM: This will be the second time NoH8 has come to Richmond. How do you choose your cities?
Parshley: As far as deciding where to go, we typically will try and reach out to the LGBT centers in the big cities as a way of bringing awareness to them and what they do. We have had directors all over the country tell us after hosting a NoH8 photo shoot, they thought they knew every supporter in their city, but didn’t know half the people that showed up. Naturally the bigger the city, the bigger to turnout ends up being.
RM: What is attendance like? What should those who want to come be prepared for?
Parshley: You can expect a couple hundred people at the Richmond photo shoot this year. We move pretty quickly, but there is definitely time to mingle. We actually encourage it. Check out the center, meet like-minded people from your neighborhood and feel the love in the air.
RM: Do you stay and see the city when you come to visit? Was there something you particularly enjoyed the last time you were here?
Parshley: Our schedule is usually pretty insane, so we don’t get much time to relax in each city. We are always trying to make the most of our time and get to as many cities as possible so whoever wants to participate, can. We know we can’t get to everyone, but the closer we are to them, the better of a chance they have to join the campaign.