Gainesville, Florida Men
December 21, 2002

                                                                                                                                       Photo: John Moran

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On December 21, 2002, near Gainesville, Florida, 22 men posed naked to send a stunning Peace message to the American people and the war administration. Braving the cold, these men from Fort Myers to Gainesville, gathered together on a hillside to do the unthinkable: To Bare it all for Peace.

Deeply troubled by the looming war against Iraq, these serious peace advocates determined to express their heartfelt desire for peace, by crafting the word PEACE and the Peace Sign with their nude bodies. These images were captured on film by renowned photojournalist and nature photographer John Moran.

The statement of this photo moment was enriched by the fact that many of the men who came together to create these images were previously unknown to each other. They were bound together by only one thing; their united desire to stop the American war machine. “What we did was outrageous, because war is outrageous,” exclaimed Bob Ellenberg. “All the peace loving people in the world need to see what we have done.”  This depth of passion was echoed by Frank Gubasta, who said, “I’d die for a better/peaceful world for my sons to grow up in.” These men intended for their act to be a dramatic statement and they want the chance to express themselves about war and peace. A candidate for Tampa City Council, Kelly Benjamin, says, “I'd love to talk with anyone about peaceful alternatives to this stupid war.”

As the photo session took place, the act took on a somber aspect. One of the participants, Jim Cameron, describes the scene as the men moved to take up their assigned positions. “As we walked in a broken group through the tall grass I was deeply touched at the sight of everyone against the hills, trees, sunlight, and blue sky. The group was composed of young college students, old hippies, alternative culture folks, and Viet Nam vets. But the sight of everyone wading through the tall grass was so archetypical and I guess reminiscent of the tragedy of war.” Once the men were posed for the photograph, Mark Kamleiter, an attorney and peace activist, was struck by the same symbolism. “These bodies, pale and white, laid out, exposed on the ground, resembled, symbolically, the dead that the pending war with Iraq will most certainly produce.”

This peace action was organized by Diane Cardin-Kamleiter and Linda Pollini, two Green Party peace activists. It sprang from a growing sense of urgency as this country rushes to war. Despite at large peace demonstrations around the country, the media have largely ignored the steadily growing peace movement. Even the most conservative polls show that almost half of the citizens in this county do not want a war with Iraq, yet the mainstream media have neglected serious treatment of the anti-war sentiment in this country.

Peace activists have been left wondering what will it take to make the press stop, look, and listen to their earnest peace message. Maybe the media can ignore 200,000 demonstrating in Washington, D.C., but would they be able to ignore a group of naked men, willing to set aside their modesty in order to get their message out? Once the idea was seized upon there was no stopping it.  

What is sought from this daring act? That all those who see these photographs stop and reflect on their meaning and hear the message of Peace.

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