My family moved to Decatur from Tallahassee, Florida in 2011. At the time my husband and I had two school-aged children and, like many others, were attracted to Decatur by the great reputation of the city schools. It wasn’t long after we moved that we discovered what really makes Decatur special is the people. We relished the fact that we lived in a diverse and friendly city. I had moved from a community that was sharply divided along racial lines so I was eager to immerse myself into this diverse region and to capture my experiences through imagery. I took off for the Atlanta streets with my camera, and I began to photograph people in their daily lives.
As I have photographed in Atlanta I have observed that people tend to congregate along racial and/or ethnic lines. What I have come to understand is that we as humans are tribal. We tend to feel most comfortable when surrounded by others with whom we share commonalities. Although this is natural, we risk the opportunity to enrich our lives by acquainting ourselves with others who have differing opinions, beliefs, customs, and narratives. Our society is currently engaged in heated debate about race, gender, and immigration. A level of intolerance has surfaced around these issues that has sharpened the divisions in our country. Intolerance is bred from fear which, in turn, is nourished by the unknown. It is easy to formulate false notions about a person whom one has never met. I have certainly fallen prey to formulating a story about a person based only on what I am able to see.
My inspiration for embarking on this project, I am Decatur, came from my desire to forge new friendships with people from my community who are diverse in ethnicity, race, age, and gender. My camera was the perfect vehicle to capture the likeness of each of the participants. Yet, it was their shared stories that revealed the essence of their character, their passions, and the experiences that have shaped their lives and molded them into the individuals they have become.
I am Decatur is a collection of portraits and stories from individuals who make Decatur the vibrant city it is. It is a celebration of our differences and of our shared humanity. These portraits and stories demonstrate that we are more alike than different. Regardless of the color of our skin, religious beliefs, or sexual preferences, we all have the same desire to be accepted, respected, and to belong.