I do two very simple things for each person who participates in my project: I listen to them and I draw their faces. I’m in the process of recording the stories and drawing the portraits of 100 individuals I meet on the street, in cafes, in libraries, convenience stores, etc. The main goal of the project is to challenge the pervasive practice of stereotyping that creates and reinforces superficial divides between people. No one wants to be stereotyped, yet it’s easy for us all to make assumptions about each other when our interactions lack depth. At the same time, we are constantly consuming media that teaches us who to see and who to value. We look at people on the street and judge them based on what we’ve learned from TV instead of what we could learn by speaking with them. Every human has something to teach the world, and I aim to provide individuals with a platform to share that knowledge and experience with the understanding that their voice will be valued.
Each person I talk to shares their experiences and their reflections on those experiences, and I am moved, surprised and educated every time someone shares their life with me. I interview people of different ages, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, class backgrounds, religions and occupations. As you can imagine, each story is extremely unique and complex. In this diversity, however, I’ve found connections between people who live in different countries and have different religions yet share the same dreams and values and fears. In the past year, I feel as though I’ve lived fifty lives, and each one resonates with my own and shares similarities with the others. These are people who, if described only by the few facts we as a society deem important, would have nothing in common. With each conversation, the patterns between each human grow stronger. A middle-aged Muslim physiotherapist from Pakistan and a 19-year-old female slam poet from Haiti shared almost identical beliefs about the purpose of life. We have so much in common with one another and so much to learn at the same time. By interacting only with a certain group of people, we deprive ourselves and we stay boxed in. Recognizing the humanity, the complexity and the fluidity of other people helps me recognize my own humanity and allow myself to be unabashedly contradictory and multifaceted. I hope it does the same for you.