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SAN DIEGO -- This weekend, celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley will return to San Diego for an open shoot, allowing local residents the opportunity to join their popular NOH8 Campaign.
In February of 2009, still reeling after the November 2008 passing of Proposition 8, which took away marriage rights to same-sex partners in California, Bouska and Parshley knew they wanted to do something.
They got together with some close friends and came up with what they called a “photographic silent protest.”
What started out as a few people, grew to every day Californians and soon included celebrities, military personnel, artists, family members of politicians, comedians and many more from all walks of life.
The portraits depict participants in the signature white shirt, with a white backdrop, NOH8 written on their cheeks and duct tape across their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Proposition 8 and other legislation around the world.
“We never had the idea of a campaign in mind,” Bouska recently told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. “We were just using our own voices and decided to take social media as far as we could.”
The campaign has indeed taken social media by storm, and now with more than 20,000 portraits in the campaign, the NOH8 logo has become a symbol for eradicating hatred across the nation and is recognized around the world.
Bouska’s studio is in Los Angeles, but they travel to other cities and states whenever they can, to reach as many people who wish to participate as possible.
"It really resonates with youth in smaller, more rural home towns," he said. The LGBT youth of today have access to social media and have followed the campaign’s growth and visibility, something that older members of the community lacked in decades past.
Despite the recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a lower court’s decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Bouska is undeterred because the mission has expanded.
"It was an important ruling," he said. "I came from Illinois to California for more freedoms, and I couldn't believe [Prop 8]. But the campaign is not political and it isn’t just a California issue, anymore. We will keep pushing forward, speaking out for all states and the world.
"I’m happy that a positive was born out of something so negative," he said.
Bouska still works at his career as a full-time celebrity photographer, but this movement has become his focus and changed his purpose.
"It is what’s important," he explained. "It has changed so many lives and it has educated us. We are creating change, we're making a difference and using our talents to do so. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
This will be their third visit to San Diego; the first was in January of 2010 at the Missiongathering administrative offices in Hillcrest, and the second was in February of 2011 at the W Hotel in Little Italy.
There will be two shoots this weekend in San Diego.
The first will be a closed shoot in Mission Valley Friday evening; the second will be an open shoot downtown in the Gaslamp on Saturday. Unless you are registered for the educator conference, make plans to attend the open shoot on Saturday.
Participants are instructed to wear a white shirt to the photo shoot. Individual portraits are $40., group photos are $25. per person.
Friday -- Closed Shoot at Educators and School Counselors Conference
The closed shoot will be for participants of the “Supporting Students, Saving Lives” conference presented by the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL).
Here, educators and school counselors of K-12 LGBT students will converge and gain the tools necessary to create a welcoming, stable and safe environment for these at risk children and their allies.
This is the second year in a row that Bouska has offered his time to this important conference.
"We heard that the educators who participated last year put their photos up in their offices, to help create a safe space for their students," he said.
This closed shoot will be at the Doubletree Hotel in Hazard Center, on Friday, February 17, 2012, starting at 9 pm. To learn more about this conference or the photo shoot, click HERE or visit their website.
Saturday -- Open Shoot in the Gaslamp Quarter
The open shoot will be held Saturday, February 18, at Hotel Solamar, 435 6th Avenue, San Diego, on the corner of J Street. Photos will begin at 2 pm.
For more information and to register, visit their Facebook Event page.
Can't Make San Diego? March 3 in Las Vegas
Their last visit to Las Vegas was in conjunction with Vegas Pride 2011.
This time around, the NOH8 Campaign open photo shoot will be tied in with the grand opening of a lavish new LGBT club, called SHARE.
According to their Facebook page, Share is a "unique upscale gay destination in Las Vegas. A beautiful nightclub on the main level with an ultra lounge & gay strip-club on the second floor."
It is located at 4636 Wynn Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada, north of the 15 between Tropicana and Flamingo Roads.
The grand opening is Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 10 pm.
Keep up with NOH8
The NOH8 Campaign is a charitable organization registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Corporation. Funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign are used to promote and raise awareness for Marriage Equality and anti-discrimination on a global level through an educational and interactive media campaign.
For more information about the NOH8 Campaign, visit their website.
You can also keep track of their movements by LIKING them on Facebook or you can follow them on Twitter at @noh8campaign.
Photos: Top, left: Jeff Parshley and Adam Bouska of the NOH8 Campaign; Middle: Morgan M. Hurley, Assistant Editor of SDGLN; Bottom: Jeffrey Sanker, of Jeffrey Sanker Presents White Party Palm Springs. All photos by Adam Bouska.