Jessica Kaminski surrounded by some of her bearded subjects;
clockwise, from top: Marcus Doucette, Tarik Moody, Blake French,
Ryan Manske, Larry Chess and Ralph Golnick.
Jessica: Hair by Mary Tomaszewski. Makeup by Theresa Balistreri,
Clean Modern Pretty Makeup.
surprise that photographer Jessica Kaminski and producer Kate Foster,
both seasoned professionals in their respective fields, chose to give
back in an impressively creative way. The duo just published a fine
art book, titled "MKE Beard Book," celebrating the cityís
bearded locals, and a portion of every book sale will benefit No-Shave
November, a nationwide initiative to raise cancer awareness and
Milwaukee native whose resume includes a stint as Mís staff
photographer, began photographing bearded Milwaukeeans last spring.
"I noticed a series of black and white portraits on Instagram of
men and their beards, and that inspired me to start a project
locally," she explains. What started as a passion project quickly
grew into something more, with Kaminski photographing subjects on a
from there," says Foster, who worked alongside Kaminski to
produce the book. "As we started getting more guys to
participate, we thought, ĎHow can we turn this into something that
has another level?í Thatís when we started looking into donating
some of the proceeds to a menís health organization. Thereís a
huge cultural movement going on with beards, so casting for the
project has been very easy."
bred cheesehead" Larry Chess says he found out about the casting
through his involvement with a local beard group, the Brew City Beard
Alliance. "One of our members posted a notification saying that
The Refinery (Foster and Kaminskiís photography studio) was looking
for bearded gents to photograph, so I submitted my photos," he
recalls. "Jessica called me a couple of days later."
people arenít professional models. Theyíre just regular
Milwaukeeans," Kaminski emphasizes. "(The book) is all about
highlighting Milwaukee and celebrating Milwaukeeís beard culture. I
love the idea of being able to look at this book 10 to 20 years from
now and see a piece of history."
fun way to do what we already do. We both have story telling sides to
our careers," adds Foster. "Weíre intrigued by documenting
whatís going on right now and storytelling." Their desire to
keep the book as authentic as possible has lent itself to some
entertaining photo shoots, to say the least. Case in point? The photos
Chess originally submitted were taken at the Midwest Beard
Competition, where he competed dressed as a lumberjack, so Kaminski
and Foster encouraged Chess to "rock the Paul Bunyan look"
for his portrait. "For our shoot, we went to Juneau Park, where
there is a replica of an 1822 log cabin. It was put there in the
1980s, and that was our backdrop. I had an axe in one hand and Kateís
dog in the other!" laughs Chess.
this role reversal ó people donít usually have their photo taken,
only at weddings. Men especially donít get their picture taken. I
think thereís something really powerful about photographing a man
and seeing how great he looks on his own, being himself," notes
Kaminski, who says her goal for the year is to establish herself as a
professional portraitist. "Giving people pride in themselves is
not a small thing."
Foster spent 10
years living and working in London before returning to her hometown of
Milwaukee, and she says the most rewarding aspect of the project has
been reengaging with the local community. "It feels really good
to be working on a project that celebrates a town I am happy to call
home again," she says. "Living away from here really gave me
a great appreciation for the people here and how wonderful they
initiated a Kickstarter campaign to cover printing costs associated
with the book and teamed up with local organizations, including UWMís
cartography department and the Milwaukee County Historical Society, to
assist in its production. Approximately 1,000 copies were printed, and
Kaminski and Foster, along with the 30-plus bearded locals featured in
the book, will commemorate its launch at Hotel Foster on Nov. 5.
Tickets to the release party can be purchased online at
refinerymke.com/mke-beard-book. Readers can also preorder a copy of
"MKE Beard Book" online, and $5 from each sale will be
donated to No-Shave November.
really happy to be doing our part to raise awareness for menís
health in Milwaukee, in whatever way we can," concludes Foster.