Coffee can be blamed for many things, but it was over a coffee that the concept of the #DadsBareAll calendar for Tŷ Hafan was born.
It was March 2016 and I was with Gareth Jenkins, who leads the support for Dads at In a past role, Gareth cared for my son, Greg, and our family when we stayed at It Tŷ Hafan. It was always good to catch up, but there was an idea I wanted to discuss.
As a photographer, I had an idea for a project to raise funds and awareness for Tŷ Hafan. After bouncing around a few ideas, Gareth suddenly mentioned a title for the photography project - #DadsBareAll. Immediately we knew that we had the concept of something special.
Since the Women's Institute's Calendar Girls, hundreds of charity calendars are released each year. To make this work, we realised that we needed to be slightly different.
Dads of children and young adults with life-limiting illnesses, and I am one of them, tend to hide their emotions. Maybe this goes back to the Caveman days, but Dads believe that they need to be the rock when all around is falling apart. Dads have a very different role to Mums, who are also amazingly strong. They want to be the one who the family can lean on. The Dads feel that they have the responsibility of holding that protective shield around all their loved ones. In reality, Dads are as vulnerable and are hurting as much as the rest of the family.
We wanted the calendar to strip away all the bravado and show the Dads in their most vulnerable state. And that had to be naked.
With the seedlings of an idea of a #DadsBareAll calendar, we pitched to Sara Webber, Tŷ Hafan Marketing, Communications and Events General Manager. We appreciated that this could be difficult. Did it fit the Tŷ Hafan brand model? Was it right for the hospice? We shouldn't have worried. Sara gave us a thumb’s up and we started our search for calendar models.
Gareth put out the feelers for naked models and the response was amazing. I was worried that we would manage to get 12, when in fact we were inundated with volunteers. Although, we later found out that some models were 'encouraged' to take part by their partners.
The #DadsBareAll project was starting to get very real. We understood that we needed to produce a calendar with gritty and arty images of the Dads. This had to be classy. The photographs were the key.
Several years ago I had photographed one of my sons on the rocky beach in Sully, right next to the hospice, and had earmarked that as the location. The rocks would be excellent for black and white photography and the beach had the strong hospice link.
We also needed strategically located props and decided on a sports theme. Each Dad would bring along a sporting object that we could use in the photography. We had rugby balls, mountain bikes, golf clubs, footballs, hiking gear, and a surfboard.
We took the photographs on three separate days. This proved to be ideal as we had different lighting and clouds on all three days.
I have known some of the Dads for many years and there are a few big characters. I wasn't sure how they would feel about being photographed naked. On that first photoshoot, there was the usual banter as we made our way down to the beach with our models in dressing gowns. However, the silence that struck the group when I asked the first pair to take their clothes off was deafening.
Once we had the photographs, we needed a calendar design and drafted in Josh Llewellyn-Jones of JSquared Marketing. In fact, he was present at one of the photoshoots and was included in one of the group photographs. Sorry Josh!
And the #DadsBareAll calendar was born.
The #DadsBareAll calendar photography project has been amazing to work on. I think that we have produced something that is special and will sit comfortably on people's kitchen walls.
The photographs featured in the calendar and also taken during the photoshoots can be seen on my website.
The #DadsBareAll 2017 Calendar can be purchased here or in any Tŷ Hafan charity shop.
What a journey!