The project consists of setting up an on-site photo booth, handing people a dry-erase board & marker & asking them to write their reason for being at Occupy Wall Street. I use a large film camera & black and white film, resulting in a series of classic, striking & politically charged portraits.
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We Are the 99%_3
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“We Are the 99%”

My portrait series titled “We Are the 99%” consists of a compilation of over 1,000 portraits taken at Occupy Wall Street NYC, and Occupy Oakland, CA.

I began this project in the beginning weeks of the Occupy Wall Street movement to contrast the negative media perception that the protesters were only ‘a bunch of crazy, lazy hippies’. Through this project I have photographed hundreds of men and women, veterans, pilots, families, children, and even wall street employees, and members of the 1% that seek change for our country.

I simply set-up a photo booth on-site, hand people a dry-erase board and a marker and ask them to write their reason for being at Occupy Wall Street. The thoughtfulness and sincerity that people have shown has inspired me to pursue this work and expand it. This project is important because it is documenting a moment in history when we all came together with the common goal to create a more just and fair society for everyone. One of the most touching experiences was when a person who couldn’t read or write wanted to be a part of the project and asked if I could write his message for him. I feel so fortunate to have connected with these unique and diverse people, and to know that we all share a common set of values and that we’re all working in our own way to make this world a more decent place.

A critical component of my portrait series is allowing people the opportunity to voice their own concerns via the dry erase board because this work is all about self-expression. It also leaves very little room for misinterpretation about who the occupiers are, and why they’re occupying, as I allow them to speak for themselves.

For this project I made a conscious decision to work with a large film camera with black and white film, known as a medium format camera because people realize they have to sit still much longer than if I were shooting digital, but most importantly it allows people the extra time to feel the emotions of their written sign, and think about their roles as active participants in this historic moment. The end result is always a quiet and personal portrait.

Despite the Occupy Wall Street park evictions, numerous arrests and the on going attempt to silence the voices of the movement, I plan to carry on photographing, exhibiting my work, and ultimately publish a book of this series. I believe that by giving this work exposure, I can amplify the volume of the voices of the 99%.