Portrait of America

Portrait of America is a celebration of diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.

What tolerance and acceptance, you say? Doesn’t this idiot read the news? Hate crimes, religious wars, and genocide are prominent in the international news.

Some American politicians espouse racist and sexist ideas, most often using code words, but occasionally by uttering something overt. Others insist on classifying Americans into narrow boxes—a lesbian Latina for this position or a straight black man for that one.

But get past the politicians and the news headlines, and there has been substantial positive movement towards acceptance during my lifetime. Fifty years ago, I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. Everyone was the same; everyone was white.

Today I live in a San Francisco neighborhood composed of a great diversity of people: black, white, Latino, and Asian; straight and gay; tattooed and pierced. All jumbled together in the new normal.

Is there still more work to be done? Certainly. But the progress in the last fifty years has been phenomenal. This project celebrates that progress towards a diverse and tolerant America.

Over the last ten years I have shot images of women and men of different ethnicity, color, fitness, size, shape, lifestyle, and age. A single image is a frank portrait of a particular person. The collection is a Portrait of America.

Why are they all in the same pose? Partly so people would notice and ask but it also serves to highlight the similarities and differences. Features are not hidden by different posing. And why aren’t the men’s shoulders sloped like the women’s? Most of the men just couldn’t do it. I had better luck getting them to tilt their hips. You may not believe that’s true, but look closely, they are tilted.

I’ve been working on Portrait of America since 2008. George the Younger was President, the country was mired in war in the Middle East, and privilege ruled. I thought a statement on diversity and acceptance was appropriate. Since that time a black man was President for eight years but now the country has swung back towards racism, sexism, and exclusion.

We need Portrait of America more than ever.

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