NOH8 photography project promoting LGBTQ advocacy coming to Connecticut. ‘You don’t need to be in the LGBT community to relate to hate.

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Jeff Parshley and his partner, photographer Adam Bouska, were not activists until 2008. What got them started that year was the passage of Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in California.

“Adam and myself were among the people who were always saying Prop 8 will never pass in California. We are a liberal state. Marriage equality was legal already. They wanted to make it illegal, to take it back away?” said Parshley, who lives in Los Angeles.

When it passed, the men were in shock. In reaction, Bouska took a picture of Parshley with masking tape over his mouth and “NOH8″ painted on his cheek.

He posted the photo online. It went viral. Parshley and Bouska were approached by countless people who wanted to be photographed, too. Many of them were celebrities. The project grew and grew. More than 14 years and 65,000 photo shoots later, the couple is established as LGBTQ rights standard bearers.

The NOH8 campaign is returning to Hartford and West Hartford this month. On Jan. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m., Bouska will be shooting photos at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St. in Hartford. On Jan. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m., he will be shooting at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road in West Hartford.

“I am so happy we are doing it in both locations. It sends a stronger unified message if both of our theaters do this hand in hand,” said Tracy Flater, executive director of Playhouse on Park.

In West Hartford, the event is presented by West Hartford Pride and scheduled to coincide with the run of “Indecent,” Paula Vogel’s drama about a groundbreaking LGBTQ play.

“It’s a good fit with the play, which is filled with antisemitism, censorship, violence against women and prejudice about the LGBTQ community,” Flater said.

Any single person or group of people can show up to have their pictures taken. The cost is $40 for one person and $25 per person for a group. Reservations are not necessary. The photography sessions will be first-come, first-served.

Proposition 8 is no longer a factor in the battle for LGBTQ rights. It was later ruled unconstitutional and today, same-sex marriage is legal nationwide. But Parshley said his travels around the country have taught him that the fight against hate always will be timely.

“Sadly, hate is prevalent today. You don’t need to be in the LGBT community to relate to hate,” he said. “Everyone has their own reason for coming to pose. People come out saying I believe in this, I am hated on account of my size, my religion, my gender, what I wear, where I live. This campaign is an outlet for that.”

Joanna Schubert, co-chair of West Hartford Pride, agrees.

“In this atmosphere of growing partisan tensions, certainly there is a lot of hate. You see it in the rise of antisemitism, anti-Asian hate, the rise of violent incidents with firearms like Pulse and Club Q,” Schubert said, referring to two mass shootings at LGBTQ social hubs.

Rob Ruggiero, producing artistic director of TheaterWorks, invoked last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court to emphasize that even in a relatively embracing state like Connecticut, the LGBTQ community can’t become complacent.

“That made the LGBTQ community sit forward. You start to worry, are our rights next? Our marriage rights? Any other really important rights we’ve got?,” Ruggiero said. “In the political arena, it seems like an uncertain time. You want to make sure you stay on top of it.”

Those who want to participate must wear a plain white shirt in the style of the photo project. (Examples: Each subject must sign a release. Subjects will have a “NOH8″ temporary tattoo put on their face and their mouths will be covered with electrical tape. Cash and credit cards only. Fees cover services and costs for one edited digital print and do not include physical prints.

Susan Dunne can be reached at [email protected].