By Katie Andress
The Paint the World Equal Project 2015 developed from an idea one mother had to help her son. Shana Tull, a local photographer from Denham Springs, and some of her closest friends had an idea to paint faces to bring awareness to an issue that hit close to home.
The idea was to paint the faces of people of all ages, races, orientations, and persons with disabilities in hopes to show through photographs that all people are equal being the paint. Tull and her group looked to social media for feedback about the idea and to spread the word about the project. “The response was overwhelming,” says Tull about the social media buzz.
The project, sponsored by Autoyes of Baton Rouge, was held on October 17, and is scheduled to be an annual event. Nearly 300 people showed up to have their faces painted and to be photographed, including Anna Maran Betts, radio host of 98.1. “We started at painting at 6 a.m. and didn’t finish until 4:00 a.m. the next day,” says Tull. The day also included a drink and jambalaya sale; all proceeds of which were donated to Denham Springs Jr High anti-bullying club “No Place For Hate.”
“We just want to make a change. Even if what we did only changes one person’s life, the project was a success!” said Mandi Sanchez, project organizer. “Our children fight this battle in school every day. And we want people out there to know that they’re not fighting this battle alone.”
Each person who came out in support of anti-bullying came with a different story. There were moms who were insecure about their stretch marks, to children who suffer from autism, and even babies who were there to enjoy the fun. Out of all of these stories, one in particular stood out to Tull.
A 16-year-old boy with autism and his mother, Amanda Simmons, went to show their support for this amazing cause.
“Even though this was an anti-bullying event, I was still a little nervous about how my son would be perceived,” said Simmons. “Some people have patience, but some do not.”
Tull and her group of painters chose to paint his face “like a warrior,” using Braveheart as a muse. His mother was still apprehensive about the photo shoot but still agreed to let Tull try. She turned off the studio lights and the boy transformed into something his mother had never seen before. “That was the first time I’d ever had a glimpse of who my son really is,” says Simmons about the experience. Her face was painted to match, and they had their first ever photo together.
Other pictures included babies with polka dotted faces, a soon to be mother with her face and belly painted, a woman covered in neon paint with the words, “you’re worthwhile” on her chest, and another woman with “femininely badass” written across her bicep and forearm. The goal of the day was successfully realized with these photos. Each photo has its own unique beauty and makes a statement; and yet, they’re very much the same.
Moving forward, Tull and her group of organizers hope to expand the Paint the World Equal Project and further spread the message of anti-bullying. They hope to gain more sponsorship from local businesses in the community and even plan to sell other goods to raise money for other schools with anti-bullying programs. Tull also expressed interest in filming a documentary to go along with the photos. “My goal for this year was to move people with a photo,” says Tull. “Next year, I want people to hear the stories behind the photos.”
For more information on the Paint the World Equal Project or to see more photos and video, please visit Shana Tull’s Facebook page at facebook.com/shanatull.