All photos by Joe Baldwin
Jess Gisin and Sherra Lasley are a pair of performers with their hearts on their sleeves and their cards on the table. They created 2 Dames to raise funds to fight Domestic Abuse and have recruited fellow Chicago performers to lend their support. Their newest project, The Deck of Dames, features pin-up style pics of a bevy of local beauties. Our Town spoke with Gisin and Lasley about the projects conception and execution.
Our Town So often we have great ideas and don’t act. What carried your Deck of Dames project through?
Jess Gisin/Sherra Lasley We both are entrepreneurs and work on our own schedules so it was and is all about making this 2 Dames project a priority. Joe Baldwin at A & B Photo also really stepped it up a notch. His willingness to photograph, edit, and design each individual card really made the whole thing come together. We call him our third dame.
OT You first did a pin-up calendar. What’s interesting to you about pin up photography?
J&S At first, it was just the idea that everyone wants to look sexy sometimes. Even extremely strong, tomboyish, hilarious women who make fart jokes want to look sexy. That’s where we started. As the project continued, though, it was satisfying and exciting to see a bunch of women go out of their comfort zone to show how strong AND sexy they could be especially if it was for a cause they truly believed in.
OT How did you decide where to donate funds raised?
J&S Domestic violence is not something that either of us has been affected by personally, but I think it infuriates both of us. After a little research, we found that not only was there a pathetically small amount of support for battered families in Chicago but also a 9 to 1 ratio of fundraisers for dogs over victims of domestic violence. We thought the pairing would be perfect: women helping women. We chose Family Rescue specifically because of it’s long term housing and extended career and legal help.
OT How did you go about attracted performers/photographers to the project?
J&S Between the two of us we know a lot of performers. We just got in touch with women we knew who had big hearts with a very carefully worded email in order to catch their eye. It was simple after that. I think it will continue to get easier now that we have two years under our belt.
OT How much input did each model have into the look of their card or which card they modeled for?
J&S This year, we had each girl doing the same pose. We wanted the cards to be consistent. We put them into position and directed them from behind the camera to bring their strong proud faces to the deck, which they all absolutely did.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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