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W. Mass. photographer launches #grabhimbytheballot project

Anja Schütz

Anja Schütz poses for her “Grab Him By the Ballot” project.

A Turners Falls photographer is using her skills behind the lens to fire back at sexist remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the run-up to the election.

After video surfaced earlier this month of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, Anja Schütz launched an “anti-Trump” movement online that uses pictures to celebrate women’s bodies, while urging people to get out and vote.

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The series of photographs feature women standing in a dark room, completely nude. Each subject is holding a fake ballot over her private parts. A banner promoting the hashtag “#GrabHimByTheBallot” is written on a censor bar that’s photoshopped across each woman’s breasts. An American flag can be seen hanging in the background.

Dozens of people have participated so far — and others are eager to take part.

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“The community around this, and enthusiasm that has swept this up has been such an incredibly profound thing for me,” said Schütz in a telephone interview.

The project, which grew organically, was started in response to the lewd comments made by Trump that were caught on a hot mic in 2005. In the recording, which was released by the Washington Post in early October, Trump could be heard saying that he grabs women by their genitals.

The release of the recording was a pivotal moment in the election.

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Upset by Trump’s remarks, Schütz posted to her Facebook page a personal note about her own experiences with sexual harassment and assault. After opening up publicly, a friend posted beneath her writing an image of the words “Grab Him By the Ballot.”

Inspired by the mantra, Schütz grabbed her camera, took off her clothes — and became the first person in the photo series.

That image was shared more than 1,000 times, and led to other women coming forward to ask to have their portraits taken in a similar manner.

On Oct. 22, Schütz hosted an event in Greenfield where she took pictures of more than 60 women for the project.

“This started as a passion project that I did because I thought I had to say something,” she said. “The fact that all these women came out and said, ‘Yes, I want this, too.’ For me, that was the reward.”

During the photo shoot, Schütz said women, many of whom were complete strangers, bonded while they awaited their turn in front of the camera.

“You could hear conversations and discussions and laughter,” in the waiting area, she said. “And people were finding some camaraderie and community to process their feelings during this election.”

Schütz said on Facebook that her choice to have women pose nude was motivated by the fact that “a woman’s body seems to be as political as ever, if not even more so.”

Schütz has been posting collections of photographs from her shoots to her business’s Facebook page. She plans to head to New York City next week to add to the series.

Because the election is nearing, she hopes to wrap up by Nov. 8. From there, she will explore her options for what to do with the photographs.

“Essentially, I want an album full of women feeling empowered and proud in their bodies, and happy to be making their political statement,” she said.

But until then, she is inviting women to sign up and protest Trump’s alarming diatribe.

“I am seeking all body types, all ages, all backgrounds,” she said. “If you’re a woman, and are pissed off, and love art, let me know!”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
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