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The Art of Advocacy

Founder of the non-profit education and advocacy group Pinups for Pitbulls (PFPB), Deirdre “Little Darling” Franklin, understands the power that pinup artwork holds in the American psyche. When she began her grassroots non-profit organization in 2005, the question became how to educate a wide enough audience to dispel the myths and misconceptions about a group of breeds (“pit bulls” are roughly 12 dog breeds lumped into one title) that have been a popular part of American culture since the early 20th century.

In her book, Little Darling’s Pinups for Pitbulls, Franklin probes, “Who doesn’t love to look at beautiful women paired with adorable pups? Pinup girls attract all kinds of people from many different backgrounds.” The answer was to create a pinup calendar that features beautiful women with their furry family members or adoptable pups who may need some extra exposure to find their forever family. Most of the pets featured in the calendar are shelter mixes who became loving, devoted family members – and PFPB believes in fighting to protect your family through the beauty of art and advocacy.

Pinup art has been popular for close to a century, with its golden era occurring during World War II. Famed artists such as Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas celebrated the female form through colorful and flirtatious paintings, implying both innocence and excitement. While painting beautiful women was not a new concept at the time, early pinup artwork often depicted beautiful girls-next-door in everyday day situations with only the slightest hint of the tantalizing possibilities each young lady possessed. These images gave hope to countless young men during World War II and became an indelible piece of American history and popular culture.  What better way to celebrate one of America’s most popular, though currently misunderstood, dog breeds than by embracing the art of pinups?

Franklin put together her first calendar in 2007, using mostly friends and colleagues as her monthly models. The goal was to raise funds that would allow her to produce educational materials for her advocacy work. At the time, she was an alternative model and burlesque performer, which garnered her many contacts who would help her further her mission – to restore the good reputation of pit bull-type dogs so that they can enjoy safety from bans and euthanasia and be just what they are, companion dogs.

In the early years of the calendar, the photographs were produced all across the country and put together as one calendar. PFPB worked with pin up photographers such as Riley Kern of Southern California, Tabatha Acosta of Cherry Blossoms Photography, Ivy Darling of Wandering Bohemian, and Shannon Brooke of Shannon Brooke Imagery. Each photographer brought their own special flair to the calendars. We explored themes such as the cruelty-free circus and “fur-gotten” war heroes, even recreating some of Elvgren’s famous paintings. As with any artist though, over the years PFPB found its own personal style and progressively refined it.

In 2013, we cemented our long-standing relationship with Celeste Giuliano of Philadelphia. That year would be the first calendar shot in its entirety by one photographer. This approach brought a more cohesive vision to our pages and the partnership resulted in an amazing calendar. “We chose a Norman Rockwell theme for 2013 to celebrate the human-canine bond. Our dogs are our family, and no one depicts family bonds better than Norman Rockwell. This calendar recreated various Rockwell images with our family dogs or adoptables,” explains Franklin. While most pinup style artwork today chooses to play up the more risqué side, this calendar kept the innocence of Rockwell and playfulness of Elvgren alive. In the month of August, you could find our Northern California team leader, Kira Ikeda, mischievously sneaking into a swimming hole with her faithful furfriend, Pike, while Deirdre fed “pup cakes” with her rescue dog Baxter Bean in an old school diner for the centerfold. This calendar proved that Celeste Giuliano understood our vision and would help us bring this mission to the next level.

And just when you think PFPB couldn’t possibly top their amazing calendar theme, Celeste Giuliano and Deirdre Franklin go and prove you wrong.  Each year’s theme has been more playful and fun than the last. In 2014, PFPB gave us the Agents of Adventure calendar which played with ‘60’s spy-flick clichés to help our calendar girls and their canine companions “catch Mr. B.S.L.,” a nod to our unrelenting mission to end Breed Specific Legislation. Our current 2015 calendar, in which I play the role of Miss March, put our own personal spin on Archie comics, with vibrant splashes of color and playful pooches.  No matter the theme, each dog is depicted as the loving, spirited, and faithful companion that they truly are. Our calendars have helped us steal the spotlight away from erroneous and violent representations of pit bull-type dogs in the media by opening the (fact-driven) conversation with curious civilians and reluctant converts.

Based on the thousands of calendars that sell each year, it is clear that national and international audiences agree – the combination of beautiful girls and handsome dogs, art and advocacy, work famously together.
For more information on PFPB, advocacy events, calendars and merchandise, please visit www.PinupsForPitbulls.org.

Kristen Greger is a former English teacher who joined the Pinups for Pitbulls family in 2013. Her PFPB roles include: 2015 PFPB calendar model, New Mexico/Arizona Street Team Leader, and volunteer grant writer. She is also the Annual Giving Manager for Animal Humane New Mexico. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and snuggling with her 9-year-old rescue pit-mix, Cowboy.

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Main article photo by: Celeste Giuliano Photography