Friday, August 2, 2013

Locals open arms for hugging documentary

Posted By on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Have you ever stopped to wonder what a better place the world would be if we all took the time to hug one another? To be honest, I can't say that I have. I'm what you might call a conservative hugger, wrapping my arms around folks who I know on a personal level.

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But local photographers Christina Welsh and Paul Kepp have piqued my interest. Together, they are joining forces for an upcoming installation and documentary based around Charlotte-area hugging.

Titled, simply, The Hugging Documentary, the project started on July 31 when a "hugging station" was set up in NoDa. Approximately 75 people accepted the free hugs from Welsh, as Kepp shot and filmed the experience. Both Welsh and Kepp will speak about hugging in the film. They will also complete interviews with folks who received and declined hugs.

"Our hope is this project touches all people and impacts them in a positive way; encouraging others to give of themselves and share joy through their own thoughtful gestures," says Welsh, who was inspired by Hindu spiritual leader and guru, Mata Amritanandamayi aka Amma.

Amma, often called "the hugging saint," is one of many to influence a global spread of hugging campaigns, which can have positive health benefits.

"A hug has always stood as a standard of love without condition and I hope that people take that positivity and explore that possibility," says Kepp.

Scientists have stated that studies prove hugging can produce oxytocin, a hormone linked to lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and improving memory. That's not to say, it's for everyone (including those who like their personal space) though.

Folks eager for a hug should head to the corner of Central Avenue and Thomas Street, this Saturday (Aug. 3, 3 p.m.). The project, slated for more pop-up stations in Charlotte, will continue through September.

Welsh and Kepp hope to have the images and video edits finalized for a release in November, when they'll begin looking for a venue to showcase the work.

When asked what type of hugger she is, Welsh exclaims, "I'm what you would call an embracer! I want to connect and make sure the hug accomplishes whatever its intention is for that particular person."

For updates on The Hugging Documentary, click here.

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