Locals pucker up for photography project

Lansing’s Old Town puckered up for the SMOOCH! Project at the Perspective2 Studio, 319 E. Grand River Ave., in Lansing, on Tuesday in an effort to reduce violence through human affection.

The SMOOCH! Project is a documentary record of the human demonstration to willingly share and welcome love and affection with no regard to social, economic or political boundaries, project creator Bonnie Fournier said.

The goal of the project is to show the world that a simple act of affection has the power to transform lives, and Katie Koerner, marketing and outreach manager of Perspective2, said Old Town was a good place to start because of the town’s growing love, community and sense of togetherness.

Kat Petersen / The State News
Kat Petersen / The State News

“One of the goals of the project is to show that even with all their differences, we all are willing to welcome love and affection into their lives,” Koerner said.

Old Town Lansing is the first national photo shoot location for the project outside of Minnesota, where Fournier is from, and locals such as mother and daughter Jackie and Katherine Hawthorne were the first to be photographed.

“It’s something out of the ordinary,” Jackie Hawthorne said. “I don’t think it will change the world, but it makes it more fun to live in.”

The project started in 2004 after Fournier, who photographed the day’s kissing, was kissed unexpectedly by her twin sister, Barb, while taking a picture. Fournier discovered that her sister’s smooch was a lesson in the Buddhist teachings of mudita, the concept of taking joy in someone else’s happiness.

“The heartfelt feeling is mudita — that’s what the SMOOCH! Project is all about,” Fournier said. “Every time I see that photo, I think ‘Barb loves me.’”

Kissing couples become a part of the SMOOCH! Project and have the opportunity to directly experience the universal joy shared by all humans when receiving affection from someone who loves them, Fournier said.

“It’s important to be happy; everyone wants to be happy.” Fournier said.
Pictures feature kisses between family and friends, but aren’t limited to human love, as pets are allowed as well, Fournier said.

The SMOOCH! Project’s next stop is Detroit, which Fournier decided was an necessary stop after reading an article about the shooting and death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones during a police raid.

“Images in the SMOOCH! Project could help calm the violence,” Fournier said. “I contacted the Dream Volunteers (and said), ‘We have to get to Detroit ASAP. We need to get to Detroit.”

The SMOOCH! Project also plans to travel internationally to places such as South Africa, Israel and Northern Ireland, Fournier said.

“It seemed like a great project,” East Lansing resident Judith Bridger said. “It can show how all kinds of people are just people. We’re so much the same.”

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