AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati (AVOC) recently changed their name to Stop AIDS -- the staff is no longer all-volunteer -- and was seeking fresh ideas for fundraising. Steve Bailey and Ryan Carden, who volunteer for Stop AIDS, dreamed up an idea and approached local photographer Wendy Seifert for the tough task of tastefully photographing guys' bare behinds.
Seifert, who has her own photography business and also runs the framing operations at a local high-end gallery, shares some behind-the-scenes highlights.
"The first round was all men, so we decided to stick with all men," Seifert says. "We knew from the beginning that we didn't want to do, you know, frontals. We wanted it to be accessible to everybody. We didn't want it to be strictly gay either. We didn't want any body contact with any of the men (in the photos). That was important to keep it all very formal, artlike. Think Edward Weston nudes, very formal (in) lighting, sweep."
Bailey and Carden, who are the calendar project producers and co-art directors, recruited volunteer models through MySpace, friends of friends, bar connections and "blitzkrieg" e-mails.
A couple they know allowed use of their downtown loft apartment for the photo studio.
After Seifert set up her equipment in one room, the models-to-be enjoyed cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and conversation in another while waiting for their half-hour session. Seifert photographed about 35 local guys, all in glorious digital color.
"I took over 1,200 images. That's a lot of booty," she says, laughing loudly. "You can do the math: 12 months out of 1,200 images, that's like 1 percent that we had to select. Editing was really hard, but we had a lot of fun. There have been some disagreements in the editing room!"
The fruits of their labor will be on view this weekend at "Reveal," an unveiling party at Universal Grille, where the "Body in View" calendars will be available for $20 donations, along with various limited edition prints from Seifert's shoots for sale. All proceeds benefit Stop AIDS.
The trio volunteered their time and invested funds from their own pockets for the project.
"We all believe in the cause," Seifert says. "We all want to make a difference, and we all wanted to do what we do best. Ryan's an art consultant, I'm a photographer and Steve's in marketing. So we put three people together who know what they're doing, and hopefully we can help further the goals of the organization."
They hope the calendar will become an annual event for Stop AIDS, like its AIDS Walk fundraiser.
What's in it for the models?
"A CD of high-resolution images from their entire shoot, just of them," Seifert says. "They also get a calendar. I'm thinking there's gonna be a lot of their photographs on gay.com."
Seifert adds that anonymity is a priority. No faces were photographed and, except for the other two editors and those appearing in the calendar, no one gets to see anyone else's photos. It's like their secret.
"Because all the models are anonymous, I get a lot of winks and hugs when I go out now, so I'm suddenly very popular," Seifert says. "I give the secret wink back."
Q: What's the coolest thing about you?
Wendy Seifert: "I'm not afraid to take chances."
Q: How does that play out in your photography and in this project?
Seifert: "In this project I found it really easy to get comfortable with the opposite gender who were at times totally naked standing in front of me and I'm looking them in the face, you know, talking about the quality of print and artwork. I'm not afraid to do new things. I'd never done that before. It hasn't been since photo school that I'd had a nude male model just for the purpose of being a nude male model. So I haven't, as an adult professional photographer, had a whole evening of just working with the male form."
Q: What's the coolest thing about using photography as the medium for this project?
Seifert: "I think photography has been treated as sort of like the ugly stepchild in the fine art world, certainly because it's been considered more of a commercial art, and so I've always kind of fought to sort of break that myth about photography. It is a fine art form and there's a lot of craft involved: it's the lines; it's still the composition, texture, form and lighting and all those things. I'd like to see more photography being treated as fine art in my hometown and elsewhere."
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