(Photo credit: Justin James Muir)
Justin James Muir wants you to buy his book, "A Book of Beards," but not for reasons you might assume. It's a not for profit book capturing the rugged elegance, style, and glamour of beards with all funds from the first pressing going to help his friend who was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The second pressing will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The first pressing consists of 500 books and he's sold roughly 250. "A Book of Beards" is self-published so Justin is relying on word-of-mouth marketing to push the $45.00/book donation. His goal is to start the second pressing in the next couple of months. Let's help him reach it, and in the meantime, get to know more about Justin...
BAB: What gave you the idea to compose a beard book -- you noted you took 10 beard portraits in April 2011, but why did you even do that? What's your fascination with beards?
Justin: When I moved to West Chester, PA, I noticed that the beard culture was a bit bolder than other places I had been; it was a little uncharacteristic of an otherwise neat and tidy town. All the while, I was sharpening my portrait photography skills, and decided to focus my lens on all of these beards. From the first portrait, I knew the black and white format would fit the mood of the men who sported these gnarly beards. I started photographing friends, which then grew into approaching strangers on the street. I was obsessed with beards, always on the lookout, wherever I went. So I built a tiny portable studio that was easy to travel with. Now, I could take portraits anywhere—houses, bars, my living room, backyards, and eventually I found myself at beard competitions. You can see my portable studio in some of the photos.
Do you have a beard?
Right now, yes. Not anywhere close to the ones in the book. A while back I had a really long beard, but now I generally let it grow for a month or two then shave.
All-in-all, how long did this book take you to compose/put together?
I started taking photos last March, and the books landed on my doorstep this June. So all in all just over a year.
Have you been in touch with Beard Team USA?
No, I haven't, but there are a couple guys in the book from that team. There are also a couple of guys who were on the IFC show Whisker Wars!
How did you choose what beards you'd photograph? Are all of the subjects living in West Chester, PA?
A lot are from West Chester, but there are beards from all over the country. Some I met while traveling, some I met at beard compitions, and some were friends.
Anything else you'd like our audience to know?
So, I actually have not been into photography for terribly long. My mom bought me my first camera 2 christmas's ago. For the first year I just shot friends family functions and learned how to use my DSLR. My mom said I was good, so I thought she had to be right. My second year of photography, I entered into a 365 challenge with myself. Take a picture every day for 365 days. you can view the entire project on my flickr account. This forced me daily to get better at photography. I learned so much that year and although I hated the project at times, its made me a better photographer. And as you can see from the project, I got some great shots, but also A LOT of really horrible ones. I went to college for design and have been creating and directing art for years. So it was easy to apply my knowledge from those fields into photography. An advantage I don't think everyone has. Now in my third year of taking photos, I get to release my first book!
In 1997, my twin brother was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a surreally experience and made it stranger because we were twins. Although it was a long fight, he is now, thankfully, 100% healthy and cancer free. A huge part of his success and the success of current leukemia survivors is due to the help of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My family has actively taken on the cause, and for the past 10 years my mother has volunteered and worked for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to further their efforts.
(Photo credit: Justin James Muir)