Every once in a while something happens in our world that causes something within us to snap. For me, recently, that was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and Trump’s subsequent apology “on behalf of the nation” for the “terrible pain and suffering” he had been “forced to endure”. Sure, plenty of things with our current administration had happened before that day that had disgusted me but nothing quite had the same effect that this event did. Perhaps it was my own #MeToo history that caused me to snap when I heard that apology, an apology that should have been directed toward Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. As I sat in my chair that morning, looking at the article on my phone, I felt completely hopeless. I knew I had two choices: I could admit defeat, accept this as the new normal, and do nothing or I could take some sort of action. Something took hold and I knew I simply could not sit still one more moment, literally and figuratively. Since I knew that the midterm election was truly the only hope I and others would have to help change the current state of affairs, I focused all my anger, my frustration, and my disgust toward making something happen before then.
As a photographer, I know the power that images can have to motivate and change perspectives. What started as a simple idea to spell out the word “vote” in objects representing reasons to do so morphed into a full-scale portrait project within an hour. I knew the first thing I would need to do was find a studio space to shoot the portraits in. I did a quick Google search of studios for rent in the Portland area but was not thrilled with the pricing I found so I put out a request on NextDoor to see if anyone had any recommendations on something more affordable. Within an hour I had a lead, called the studio owner, and scheduled a visit first thing the next morning to take a look. After a quick walkthrough of the space and announcing “this is perfect!”, once back at home, I found a scheduling software plugin for my website and within an hour, had a fully functioning page on my website dedicated to recruiting and scheduling participants for my project. Through Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, NextDoor and word of mouth, I found over 20 participants for the photo shoot scheduled just two short weeks away.
During that two-week period of time, I purchased studio lighting and a backdrop and began to teach myself portrait photography. I reached out to a few galleries and businesses in town to see if they’d be interested in hosting an exhibition before the mid-term election which was fast approaching. Luckily, I connected with Uncorked Studios and quickly discovered how excited they were to support my project and was grateful for their willingness to host an exhibition, which was strategically planned for the Friday before the mid-term election. After the date and time were confirmed, there was a flurry of things to do: find a keynote speaker, create a registration system, promote the event, draft a press release, find the right printer for the portraits, plan and hire movers to help install the street level exhibit, and so, so, so much more. Needless to say, I slept very little during that time which I will admit now, may or may not have been the best idea so soon after my kidney cancer surgery.
The photo shoot on October 21st was so much more than I had ever imagined it could be. First, we were blessed with sunny and dry weather, unusual for the Pacific Northwest in the fall. Participates arrived like clockwork throughout the day with their objects. Meeting with them face to face and hearing their concerns about our administration and excitement to be involved in this project so they could voice those concerns was heartwarming. Something felt very right in that moment, connecting with strangers over our shared concerns, anger, and hopes for a better future. It definitely provided the renewal of faith in humanity that I so desperately needed at that moment. Although it was a very long day that left me sore and tired, it also left me more motivated than ever to keep going.
In just 27 days, I’m happy to report, I took my little idea and fully executed it into a wonderful night of art and civic engagement in Portland on November 2nd. Over a hundred people turned out for the event and multiple people confided in me how moved they were and how powerful the exhibit was to them. I met some truly wonderful people throughout the project process and even connected with a few people at the exhibit who are interested in helping me connect with other organizations and publications in Portland who may be interested in getting involved with the phases of the project which will focus on why we protest and why we run for public office. I’m also happy to report that the mid-term elections went fairly well for the Democratic party on November 6th and I’m hopeful that our nation is on a good path toward righting the ship in November of 2020.
To learn more about 45 Reasons Why, please visit my website and if you would like to participate by sitting for a portrait, please send me a message. If you’d like to see images from the exhibition event, please visit my Facebook page.