With No Shave November just beginning, the number of beards in Northeastern Pennsylvania will inevitably increase, but why not keep that stylish facial hair year-round?
The Beards of Scranton calendar will do just that, a brand new project that began with a simple Instagram post and turned into months of hard work and grooming – all for a good cause.
Scranton photographer Jason Riedmiller, known to NEPA Scene readers for his concert photography and Beautiful People of NEPA, regularly updates his Instagram account with striking portraits, and Tami Nasser took note of one in particular that sparked the initial idea.
“Someone had commented, ‘This should be entitled beards of Instagram,’ and that got me thinking, ‘What about beards of Scranton?’ The thought of a charity calendar soon popped into my head, and I had reached out to Jason to ask if he would be my photographer. He immediately said yes, and we got to work around June,” Nasser recalled.
Like a 5 o’clock shadow with no razor in sight, the idea took off and grew from there, though it wasn’t easy wrapping everything up by last month to have the calendar ready for release this Friday.
“Scheduling was a nightmare,” Riedmiller admitted. “I thought I might have to book a plane flight to get Earl Granville’s photo. It all came together in the end.”
“I basically kept Jason in line – just kidding,” Nasser joked. “I kept the workflow going, such as scheduling the photo shoots, securing sponsors, sending out thank you letters, and social media.”
“When we first started out, we were worried that would not get enough beards to fill the calendar. It turned out we got way too many. Picking them became very political, and I hated the whole decision-making process. Tami and I are blaming a third party for this,” Riedmiller noted with a laugh.
“All proceeds go to benefit the Catherine McAuley Center. The Catherine McAuley Center is a 501 3C nonprofit organization committed to directly minister to women and the economically poor; provide temporary shelter for women and children in crisis; assist women to attain safe, affordable, permanent housing; provide women support services leading to self-reliance; and to assist women to attain medical and community resources. Their administrative office is located on Pittston Avenue in Scranton, and they have residential houses located throughout the city,” she explained.
“Throughout my years as a member of the Junior League of Scranton, we have worked on several projects with the Catherine McAuley Center. I really liked their mission and wanted to assist them further. The concept of a calendar of bearded men seemed like a unique fundraising opportunity.”
The collaboration took on personal significance as they continued working on it, particularly with the holidays approaching.
“After I started work on the calendar, a close friend relayed a story of when she was growing up; her family was recipients of the generosity of the Catherine McAuley Center during Christmas,” Nasser shared.
“Knowing that the funds raised will be able help women and children through the holiday season and throughout the year provides great personal satisfaction.”
A hairy situation
Beards have made a fashionable comeback in recent years, and with No Shave November, which raises awareness of cancer and men’s health issues globally, that popularity has only increased, but Riedmiller knows the real reason guys let it grow.
“Men are inherently ugly, and beards help cover that up,” he cracked.
“When Tami asked me to shoot the calendar, she said, ‘I love your work, but can we do it in color?’ and of course I said no. Honestly, my shooting style is very straightforward. I photograph in a documentarian fashion, and the subjects make the photos great. Then I take all the credit.”
Every black-and-white portrait represents a different beard, along with the very different people sporting them.
“We wanted a variety of local beards – long beards, short beards, red beards, black beards, gray beards, and so on. We used a mix of businessmen, musicians, chefs, people of the community, and Facebook submissions,” Nasser said.
“Gene Philbin from Peculiar Culinary Company took time before he had to cater a wedding to get his beard photographed. Also, Johnny Waering from 3 Guys and a Beer’d drove to Scranton early on a Saturday morning to have his ginger beard photographed. Brian Craig from The Bog got a fresh cut and a trim for his portrait. The beard models were super into the whole project, and we can’t thank all 21 of them enough.”
Though, as with most things involving masculinity, it turned into a bit of a measuring contest when they revealed the cover of the calendar, featuring Justin Troutman posing in front of buildings in downtown Scranton, on Facebook.
“We actually got complaints on our Facebook page about him being on the cover because his beard was not long enough. It’s not the long beards of Scranton – it’s the Beards of Scranton, which come in all shapes and sizes,” Riedmiller emphasized.
“Also, we really liked that the city itself was in the background of his photos.”
All this talk of facial hair may have prompted Riedmiller to shave his own beard off completely, at least temporarily.
“I really just got sick of having four inches of hair on my face, as I tend to do every year or so. I went to Loyalty Barber Shop to get it all shaved off, and Jim Simon decided I need to have a goatee, which was awful, so we compromised on a creepy mustache, which I sported for a few weeks,” he said.
“Very early in the morning after a Dr. Dog concert, my friends Lauren and Liz painted my fingernails silver. The next day, I went to Stalter’s Cafe to watch the Vikings, where I got some pretty interesting comments on my look from some very non-hipster people. I managed to sneak by and not get my ass kicked by the football crowd. After that, I shaved and grew the beard back.”
Riedmiller will return to Loyalty Barber Shop and Shave Parlor of Scranton this Friday, Nov. 6 for the Beards of Scranton calendar release party, where the finished product will be sold for $10 during a night centered around the theme.
“We will have an art wall with some of the pictures on display. An associate from the Catherine McAuley Center will be there to answer questions about the center. There will be a photo area complete with beard props. Wooly Willy, the magnetic game where you draw facial hair onto the hairless man, will be making an appearance. Lastly, light refreshments will be served,” Nasser listed.
Those who can’t make it can purchase the calendar at the Backyard Ale House Bottleshop, the Holiday Market on Dec. 4-5 at the Mall at Steamtown, or via a private message to the Beards of Scranton Facebook page.
“Alex Molfetas at Center City Print has been an awesome partner, and he and Samantha Nardelli of Shanty Town Design did a killer job with design and pagination; we are thrilled with finished product. Also, Ashley Kujat, who designed our logo and flyers, did an amazing job,” Riedmiller said.
“The most fun was getting to hang out with a lot of good friends and taking their photos. After 15 years, I still find it hard to believe I do what I love for a living.”
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.