When Justin James Muir moved to West Chester, Pa. a little over two years ago, he found himself in a hairy situation—the beards per capita ratio seemed unusually high. The phenomenon puzzled Muir, so as he settled into life in his new home, the art director did what came naturally: he began photographing the beards of his new friends. And then he photographed the bearded friends of these friends. And then the friends of their friends found their way in front of Muir’s lens too. Pretty soon, he had enough portraits to publish a book.
A Book of Beards, published earlier this month, features 125 pages of whiskered men, photographed by Muir at beard competitions, dive bars and off-the-beaten-path hideaways across the East Coast.
“I would literally look for beards everywhere I went. I would meet someone on the street and try to set up a time to shoot them or have them come to me,” Muir told TIME. He even had cards that he would give to the the well-bearded men he would encounter.
“There was no real criteria,” he explained. “It just had to be a big beard and look cool. You don’t see people like this every day—a lot of them are kinda tucked away in nooks that most people will never go to.”
Publishing A Book of Beards himself, Muir decided that all proceeds from the first press run would help Mike Cummings, a bearded friend suffering from testicular cancer without health insurance. Mike, featured on the cover of the book, also contributed a short written vignette in the book, one of 18 pieces sprinkled throughout the portraits. Muir plans to donate the funds from subsequent press runs to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
For more information about A Book of Beards or to purchase a copy, visit BookofBeards.com.