Hunka hunka body love: Local photographer set to spotlight 'Dad Bods of Cleveland'

As a lakefront wildlife haven with more than 260 bird species, Wendy Park is considered one of Cleveland’s most scenic spots, but anyone taking a stroll there last weekend was treated to some unexpected sights—namely, the men of the upcoming “Dad Bods of Cleveland 2021: A Year of Midwest Sexy” calendar.


The brainchild of Shiny Penny Studios photographer Keli Schimelpfenig, the calendar will not only spotlight local men via Schimelpfenig’s unique brand of “dudoir” photography, but also raise money for charity with all proceeds going to Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio (after printing costs are covered).


It’s a creative, lighthearted project—and Schimelpfenig hopes that will be just the Rx people need amid the burdens of 2020. “This year has pretty much been a dumpster fire, and we’re all looking forward to 2021 at this point,” says Schimelpfenig, who lives in West Park. “I wanted to find ways for people to smile and feel good about life.”


Schimelpfenig has been doing just that by holding open model calls at places like Maria’s Field of Hope, Wendy Park, and (soon) Tyler Field—attracting average Joes of all shapes and sizes to strike a pose. The idea grew out of Schimelpfenig’s frustration with the online dating scene, as well as her bemusement at some of the ill-advised selfies on dating apps and websites.


“The amount of up-the-nose shots and shirtless men in recliners is staggering,” says Schimelpfenig with a laugh. “On a whim, I decided to put out a call for men to meet me at Maria’s Field of Hope; I set them loose in a field, and they took all sorts of selfies, going over-the-top but in a really good way.”


After seeing the shots from that shoot, Schimelpfenig decided to go all in and create a cheeky calendar showcasing the “dad bods of Cleveland.” The project is a natural fit with Schimelpfenig’s personality-driven style of photography at Shiny Penny Studios, for which she does approximately 200 shoots per year. Schimelpfenig says she calls on her experience directing community theatre to coax subjects out of their shell and capture them in their element.


“A lot of photographers in Cleveland like to brand themselves by their [shooting] style or mood, like ‘dark and moody’ or ‘light and airy,’” says Schimelpfenig. “I shoot in all types of life situations and scenarios, but my focus is more on storytelling and the personality of the subject.”


Those personalities will be on full display when Schimelpfenig releases the calendar this November, with pre-orders starting this week on her website. Each copy will cost $20 and benefit Meals on Wheels.


“Most of these guys [in the calendar] haven’t missed a meal in a while, so I figured Meals on Wheels was the perfect choice,” jokes Schimelpfenig. “Each purchase of the calendar will provide a day’s worth of meals for a needy senior, and I’m really excited about it.”

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.