BREMERTON — When Bremerton photographer Elaine Turso, Soroptimist International member and chair of the Polka Dot Powerhouse Bremerton chapter, does a project, she does it “outlandishly big.”
So, when her involvement with Soroptimist, a volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls, opened Turso’s eyes to the human trafficking “epidemic,” Turso jumped in feet first into her latest project: Dudes Against Human Trafficking.
“I did a calendar back in 2013 (a 2014 calendar) called the Empowerment Project,” Turso said. “Everybody had been asking me, ‘Are you going to do another calendar?’ I never found anything that got my creative mojo juice going.”
But one day, when driving to her studio, she connected the dots between her recent education in human trafficking and this art project people were already asking for. Now, she’s putting out a “dudoir” calendar to raise awareness about human trafficking.
“Dudoir is basically guys poking fun at the boudoir industry,” Turso said. “I’m a boudoir photographer, so it kind of made sense … to take a different spin on it and do something satire.”
The calendar features 12 men — dudes — in various, satirical photos, each with their own theme: shipyard, Seahawks, white sheets, roller derby, bubble bath, schoolboy, barbecue, patriotic redneck, cowboy, baking in an apron, pinup on a vintage car and a dude in a sweater.
“Some of the guys were wearing Daisy Dukes, some of them were wearing just their underwear, but they were all tastefully sat,” Turso said. “It’s very satire in nature.”
Turso said she initially had 100 calendars printed, and sold 75 of them for $20 in a pre-sale. The remaining calendars will be available for sale on the website, elainetursophotography.com/fundraiser, at the First Friday Artwalk in January in downtown Bremerton or at Liberty Bay Books in Bremerton. Turso said the bookstore offered to sell the remaining calendars at no charge to Turso, to help raise money for the cause. She added she might have more calendars printed if there’s a call for them.
All the proceeds from the calendars will go to Soroptimist International, specifically for human trafficking-related projects, such as helping organizations such as Scarlet Road. Turso expects to raise around $2,600.
But Turso also hopes to do more than just raise money: she wants to help educate people.
“The calendar is filled with statistics and facts and things related to human trafficking,” Turso said. “It’s kind of what I like to call the shock and awe factor. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s really funny,’ but also, ‘oh my gosh, I didn’t know that.’ ”
She said she hopes to “reach different audience to educate about the human trafficking that’s happening in Kitsap,” and around the world.
Turso’s Dudes Against Human Trafficking calendar was not met with universal praise, however.
“I actually got a lot of opposition about it,” she said. “I had approached a local organization about … them being the beneficiary of the calendar. They said no. They felt it was objectifying.”
When Turso set up a booth about it at a regional Soroptimist conference, she said that some women “were really happy and excited about it,” but others “turned their noses up.”
Eventually, Turso connected with a woman who works with the Shared Hope International, an organization “dedicated to bringing an end to sex trafficking,” according to their website, sharedhope.org.
“I talked with her … and I told her I was going to intentionally objectify men to raise awareness. She said, ‘Do it.’ ”
“It was kind of like I’d gotten the blessing,” Turso added.
When she finally committed to making the calendar, Turso said the open slots for models was filled in only eight hours, and she needed to form a committee to help her narrow down her ideas from 30 themes to only 12.
“I had to really change my mindset,” Turso said, “and realize I was going to intentionally offend, and objectify people in order to raise awareness and make a statement.”
She said she was willing to “accept whatever consequences” there are in order to spread her message, raise awareness and fundraise for the cause.
“I just have to be prepared and say, you know what, if there’s a ruckus, at least they’ll be made aware that there’s an issue,” Turso said. “You can’t please everyone, is what I’ve learned.”
For more information, visit elainetursophotography.com/fund raising or www.facebook.com/Dudesagainsthumantrafficking.
Michelle Beahm is a reporter with Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at mbe firstname.lastname@example.org.