In 2010, photographer Steve Rosenfield started the “What I Be Project.” Volunteers were required to complete the following statement: “I am not my ___.” Each individual was asked to complete the sentence with his or her own insecurities, labels, internal conflict, or how they are generally perceived by society. Rosenfield’s website states that this project aims to build “security through insecurities.”
What started as a social experiment turned into a global movement about honesty and empowerment.
Inspired by Rosenfield, I started this project hoping to open up lines of communication and break down barriers. In today’s society, we are often expected to look or act a certain way. Although we are all subject to our own unique traits, experiences and flaws, often we are judged, scorned, or bullied by one another for circumstances we cannot change.
By writing on their bodies, individuals from diverse backgrounds have been photographed displaying their deepest insecurities. Each volunteer is photographed in a simple pose, with bold black writing on their upper body and face.
“I am not my depression,” a young woman states, with the word “Hopeless” written across her collarbone.
Another displays “Victim No More” on his chest, asserting “I am not my abuse.”
Like Rosenfield, I used this approach to give labels, stereotypes, and internal conflict a human face. The participants you see here are all Trent University students – some you may recognize, others you may not. However, I challenge you to consider each separately. Take a moment to consider the standards in the photographs and try to understand their individual struggle.
My intent is to bring some important issues a little closer to home and for you to be able to put a face to each. It is likely many people reading this article can relate to the issues presented here on a personal level. The conflicts revealed here may be your own.
By participating in the What I Be Project, subjects are revealing their personal challenges, but state that it does not define who they are. The movement aims to spread awareness and connect with others who may be dealing with similar issues.
The portraits are meant to be empowering and cathartic, so that people are compelled to put their insecurities out in the open and expose a side normally kept hidden.
If you would like more information, you can follow the What I Be Project on Steve Rosenfield’s Facebook page Ganesh Photography or on his official website WhatIBeProject.com.