A tractor is usually just a useful piece of farm equipment, but make it an antique, throw in a uninhibited model, some mood lighting and a photographer with a charitable vision and you’ve got the making of something that goes well beyond simply utilitarian.
Craig Sitter, a Hagersville accountant, has long been proud of his collection of antique tractors. Proud enough to create the Sitter’s Massey Memories Museum around the concept of his many collectibles and antiques. Little did he know that hiring a cataloguer and Waterloo-based artist Karen Zandersons would lead to the first Classic Tractor Beauties calendar in support of breast cancer research.“We were working one day and we just ended up developing an idea on seeing if we could get women and tractors together for a calendar,” Zandersons explained.
The calendars are now back from the printers and ready to be distributed. Each page features a Zandersons photo of a model, some tastefully nude, next to one of Sitter’s antique tractors.
What started out as an idea for an eye-catching calendar soon morphed into a cause Zandersons is eager to contribute to. Having been diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer herself in May 2009, the artist and photographer went through many difficult rounds of chemotherapy and surgery on both her breasts.
After many difficult battles Zandersons is healthy, going in for regular checkups with a physician, and growing out a long head of blond hair.
“We found it totally by accident,” she said of the cancer. “I felt lucky enough to live in this part of the world that has treatments available and I took full advantage of that.”
On the back of the calendar she chose to place a paragraph explaining the reason for the calendar and a black-and-white photograph of a smiling Zandersons with shorter hair and a mastectomy scar.
While the back of the calendar shows how the team of creators came to the idea, the inside is the product of months of work and the dedication of skilled volunteers who flocked to participate.
Derek Potma of Elmira volunteered to look after the graphics and layout of the calendar, while two stylists and a makeup artist made the girls look their best for the shoot.
Zandersons said she wanted a diverse group of women to model and represent a variety of body types, keeping the shoots natural and earthy, so stylists were instructed to keep hair and makeup soft and simple.
“It was new in the way that I wasn’t sure where to start organizing something like that,” she said of starting the process.
“ I didn’t have anyone to go to so I had to do it all by myself out of my imagination and just take it one step at a time and see how it developed. It all went really, really well.”
Zandersons started by contacting friends and putting an ad online for models. Just a couple of days in she had to take the ad down, overwhelmed by the response from at least a hundred eager women. In the end she chose about 17 models, purposely overbooking in order to safeguard against no-shows and emergencies.
Many models wanted to know if they could participate next year and Zandersons is considering the idea of making the calendar an annual project.
Calendars cost $20 each, with all of the proceeds, after printing costs, going to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization Zandersons and her team are eager to support in coming years.
“It was only going to be this year, but with the response we’ve had I think we’re going to do it every year.”