If, as Fred Allen once suggested, a celebrity is someone who works hard at not being recognized, then the folks featured in the soon-to-be-released 2015 calendar put together by The Arc Pikes Peak Region are true superstars. The models -- all people with developmental disabilities and Arc clients -- have managed to recreate some of the most recognizable celebrity images of the twentieth century with such uncanny verisimilitude, masking their own identities in the fame of their subjects, that it's easy to get confused over which image is the original, which the impersonation.
Last year the Pikes Peak office did a feel-good calendar that depicted clients celebrating the seasons in Colorado. This year advocacy specialist Craig Severa wanted to take a different approach: drawing on volunteer talent and props and wardrobe borrowed from ARC thrift stores to restage some of the most iconic photos and posters of modern times.
"Craig was the main man on this," reports Johanna Fehrs, the Arc PPR spokeswoman for the project. "He wanted to do something different, with the idea of changing how the public perceives people with disabilities."
Photographer Cassandra Zink says the project spurred considerable discussion over which images to try to reconstruct and "who's more iconic" -- Einstein or Elvis? James Dean or Jerry Lewis? And certain images were rejected as too complicated to imitate, such as the famous Eisenstaedt shot of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day.
Yet even those selected weren't exactly a snap to pull off. Assembling an homage to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, for example, required a five-hour visit to a game local hair stylist just to get the 'do right. Recreating the lighting for John Lennon in his Imagine period (as portrayed by a model named Kevin) took some doing, too, but Zink praises the patience and perseverance of the models.
"Each shoot was challenging," Zink says. "It was very exhausting and very wonderful at the same time."
The calendars will be shipping late in November, but they can be pre-ordered now by filling out a short form on the ARC PPR website. Fehrs says the organization is selling the calendars at cost, for a suggested minimum donation of seven dollars, in hopes of raising awareness that their models aren't simply "people with disabilities" but also mothers, students, nannies, softball enthusiasts and community members -- and occasionally famous.
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