BIDDEFORD – Biddeford resident Jakk Burdick never thought he’d be discovered through a photo on Instagram.

But that’s just what happened.

Burdick, 27, is a set and costume designer, make up artist, photographer and has worked on local productions that include “Holly Star” and now he can add model to his resume. His photo appears on the cover of “Endangered Species: A Surly Bear in the Bible Belt,” a collection of creative nonfiction about being gay in southern Appalachia.

It turns out that Burdick looks like author Jeff Mann when Mann was young.

“I’m nearly 60, so I don’t think that putting my image on the cover of ‘Endangered Species’ would necessarily sell the book,” Mann said. “Jakk (Burdick), on the other hand, resembles a younger version of me. I looked like a (much less attractive) version of Jakk as he appears on the cover the book: a furry, bearded rural boy, complete with a flannel shirt, ball cap and axe. So yes, a hotter version of me? Perfect.”

Burdick describes the essays as being about a gay guy from Virginia who loves where he lives but struggles with stereotypes.

“That’s where we connected,” Burdick said, who is also gay.

Burdick said he feels lucky to be part of a generation that didn’t bear the brunt of gay discrimination, but he was in high school – and not out – when the debate about gay marriage was happening.

When the book’s publisher contacted Burdick on Instagram, Burdick thought he was being hired to take a photograph.

“They said, ‘No, you’re going to be a model.’ It blew me away,” Burdick said.

Burdick, who has struggled with self image, once weighed 400 pounds, so to be invited to model was significant.

“I remember going from 400 pounds to 200 – which was small for me. The whole journey I hated how I looked. I’m still on that journey,” he said. “To still be working on myself, not super fit and to be on the cover of the book is a cool feeling.”

Burdick and a friend set up the photo shoot in Maine – Mann said the state reminds of him of his home state and calls it the “West Virginia of New England.” Burdick, who is usually behind the camera, was tempted to check each shot but ultimately, had to give up that control.

Burdick eventually visited Mann in Virginia.

“Jakk and I bonded in a big way,” Mann said. “At this age, it’s very hard to impress me. To be honest, I’m a bitter, depressive old recluse. But Jakk impressed me tremendously. Not only is he very handsome, but he and I agree on so many of the same topics – artistically, culturally and politically.”

Mann said in Maine there’s a “down-home rural isolation self reliance and independence that I, as a West Virginian, hugely relate to and hugely admire. To see those very traits in Jakk  . . . well, again, I was very impressed and I knew after spending time with him, that his image would be the perfect cover for my book.”

The book may be purchased on Amazon.

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