San Francisco, undoubtedly, is a place that celebrates sexuality, but who knew that Folsom Street Fair could bring us closer as a community?
The beauty of living in SF is that we can all be whomever we want to—entrepreneur, artist, medical professional, dominatrix—and we can even be all of the above. Here we go from buttoned-up administrative by day to erotica queen by night, but unfortunately this fluid culture does not translate to all areas of our society. As a cultural movement gives rise to challenge problematic power struggles and sexual abuse, local sex toy company Crave set out to capture the joyful side of sexual beings.
The Crave Portrait Project depicts everything you think you know about Folsom Street Fair—the leather, the leashes, the fishnets and horns. But the real spotlight of the endeavor, kicked off with a sign calling for participants at last year's festival, is on the faces behind the masks, the ones we see every day at the office, on BART, and at the local four-dollar coffee shop. Turns out, those Folsom Street-goers are just like us (but you knew that already).
"We have always believed creating opportunities for thoughtful conversations around sex and pleasure can be a positive force," says Crave cofounder Michael Topolovac. "We of course work to do that with the products we design, but we like to lend our voice where we think it can add value in a broader context. That was the spirit of how this project came to life."
And lively it was, resulting in numerous photo sessions and nearly 5,000 images of individuals and couples who unflinchingly dared to bare the duality in themselves. The result reveals our shared humanity more than it uncovers our differences.
A transgender artist by the name of Mason appreciated the chance to share his sexuality and gender: "It is important to show the world that we are all more dimensional than our first impressions" he says.
Kamila, a registered nurse who participated, hits it on the head: "One might think that this public exposure puts us in a vulnerable position. It could be so, but at the same time vulnerability is a basis of any true connection to another human being; so this mass act of self-exposure creates a very powerful sense of unity...let's free ourselves from self-imposed limitations and judgmental attitudes! Way too many of us struggle with insecurities around sex, our bodies, our fantasies and behaviors."
What the Crave team found in the portraits touched and surprised them, and was a far more tender experience than they'd imagined. The project shed light on a community that often is misunderstood and bubbled up the beauty of the culture to the surface. The images show the intricacies of SF locals in their entirety, while at the same time challenging viewers to look, not judge. Now, see for yourself.