Everyone Is Photogenic
Please support community portrait events welcoming beautiful humans of all sorts to be celebrated in the same light.
We brought together over 850 people to help remind the world that EVERYONE is photogenic.
While the project didn't hit the funding threshold for this particular incarnation, you can always use the manifesto at EveryoneIsPhotogenic.com to share the message with people when they start to doubt in their own light.
Please take a moment to check out the final project update.
Here's why this work is needed:
When I first put this project out there, I received an email titled "Could even I be photogenic?"
Here's the whole exchange, reproduced with permission:
Hello Mr. Tiziou,
I attend Broad Street Ministry and Word at Beacon church. You photographed me along with many others during the BSM birthday party 2 years ago.
In your collage below, I am [represented in it]
Yesterday Karen Rohrer sent me an email and link to your “Everyone is Photogenic” project. Watching the video really hit me hard, because I bubbled up with swaths of anxiety over all of my own personal associations with that word, “photogenic.”
I have always hated pictures of myself.There is this one passport photo I have of me from 1995 that I really like. That federal passport photographer made my blue eyes really pretty. I keep that photo close and take comfort in the fact that maybe, I might have nice eyes. But except for that one postage stamp photo, I have loathed every photograph that was ever taken of me.
When I see people out and about in Philadelphia, I think everyone is beautiful. So often people are sad looking or sometimes you see people with red eyes, crying, stuck in public unable to hide their emotions, I always want to go up to them and help them, tell them that they are beautiful. But I do not. When I see what society says is beautiful, I never find those plastic people attractive, instead I find beauty in the person who is letting her hair go grey, the person who everyone calls fat, the balding man with the kind eyes, etc. I so clearly see vibrancy and beauty in everyone. Everyone but myself.
So I am interested in your Everyone is Photogenic project and as soon as I can, I want to make a donation.
I thank you for your promo video, because it started something deep inside of myself. Right now it hurts, but I will try to be brave and work through my body hatred. If you say everyone is photogenic, then I will try to believe that. I already believe it about others, maybe it is time for me to accept it about myself.
I believe that in some form you may have contacted me after BSM about more photos. I freaked and never responded. It scared me, and I wanted to hide. That was a while ago, but if you want to photograph me, I would be willing. Everyone says such positive things about you, especially Bill Golderer, I would trust you. I would be really nervous, but I am willing to stretch myself for your projects.
Thank you for reading this lengthy out-of-nowhere email, and for receiving my words.
This is powerful, right?
If I had any doubts that this project was needed, this email eradicated them.
I was really struck by how this individual ended their message… “receiving my words” – that’s what this project is about: it’s not even about making pictures, it’s about receiving human beings. Creating a safe space where all are welcomed just as they are.
Here's my response:
Dear beautiful [name],
Thanks for your email.
And you *already are* photogenic. Each and every day.
I happen to love several of the shots of you that I took of you at BSM, but that has nothing to do with it.
You’re on the right track with what you said here.
All of those beautiful people on the streets of the city? I bet that many of them feel the same image anxieties that you do.
So if you heard one of them expressing the same feelings that are eating you up inside, what would you say to them?
I bet you would tell them how beautiful they are. How they’re perfect just the way they are.
And I’m pretty sure that they would feel loved by you, and safe with you.
So whatever you’d say to one of those beautiful people out there…
… hear it said to you.
be well, friend,
PS of course I’d be delighted for you to participate in the project once it’s up and running. You would be most welcome.
And they replied:
Thank you so so much jj.
I really like what you are doing.
My sister [name] and I were both abused by our father. He did a lot of things, but one of the lesser things he did was to constantly criticize the way we looked. We both seem cheery and nice, but when it comes to ourselves, our self esteem, we are all freaked out inside. [name] hates her nose, says it is too big. I can not see what could possibly wrong with her nose and I think she is beautiful. She also hates seeing photos of herself. Which is a shame.
How many countless people out there walk around carrying scars of a ignorant thoughtless comment that someone said years ago? We see ourselves and think we look wrong because we don’t look like the images that are shoved at us to make us feel inadequate so we buy things.
Thank you for the message that you are bringing to people and the healing you are fostering.
At the BSM party, there was this one homeless, or at least very poor woman who had gone through your “booth” several times. She always had so much energy on a regular day, singing and being so friendly to everyone, but she was particularly overjoyed at this party. I will never forget how she cheered and pointed and made sure everyone saw her when the photo you had just taken was projected as a slide show. She was so excited to have her picture taken, and the fact that she was large on the wall of our church, that meant so much to her.
I think you are touching people’s lives and you will probably never know just how profound your creative actions are. Thank you for how you touched me with your words and your appreciation of my image today.
I just asked a friend to take a photo of me today with my phone. I have been trying to look at it, without criticism. That is because of your encouragement.
Take care and good luck,
So that's it right there:
You can scroll on down for more of the official project pitch, but the sentiment in those emails really sum it up. This project is about creating that kind of experience for our fellow humans.
Please join us as a backer now, and join us in a few last days of outreach. We're past the tipping point where we can pull this off, but it's going to take more than just a "share" on Facebook.
If you haven't already, check out the video above, or give a listen to this little clip from KYW NewsRadio's Tom Rickert via HearPhilly.com:
Hi there. You're beautiful. Hopefully you know that.
And yet I keep on running into people who tell me that they're "not photogenic."
This is probably because our society has some distorted ideas of what the word "photogenic" means. Let's fix that.
This year-long project will photograph at least 1,000 Philadelphians through a series of community photo sessions. These events will involve a lot of community outreach, bringing all sorts of people together from different parts of the city and invite them to be photographed in the same light. It's a simple concept with profound implications. With these images, I'll make a book, a lightbox installation, and put some of the faces of our beautiful neighbors up on billboards!
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT:
What does it mean when society tells us that we're "not photogenic"?
It's so easy to fall into the trap of believing that "those people" on the cover of the magazine are somehow more beautiful than our own neighbors or our own selves. But if you look closely, you'll know that it's simply not true.
By claiming the term "photogenic" on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors, we can combat the twisted notions of beauty that are handed down to us by society and affirm the intrinsic value and real beauty of our communities.
- Bring together neighbors who might not otherwise cross paths.
- Include a meal, so that participants can get to know each other.
- Are held both at my studio in The Cedar Works in W. Philly, and other accessible locations throughout the city.
- Giving portraits as gifts to our neighbors.
- Bringing the word "photogenic" back to it's original radiant meaning.
- Building artwork that will literally be luminous: A lightbox installation full of shining faces will be exhibited throughout the city.
- A commemorative book will be great to have on your coffee table; it might be a nice conversation point for guests, and there's plenty of other fun reward options too.
- Billboards sharing these images and this message will be a breath of fresh air in the crowded media landscape of commercial advertising.
What is a portrait worth, and would you gift one to a stranger?
FUNDING TARGETS AND POSSIBILITIES:
Basics: $110,000 lets us photograph at least 1,000 people, and includes tasty and healthy catering for the shoots. It also lets me design a basic book from the project, build the lightbox installation, and take out at least one slot on a major billboard to help share the message that Everyone Is Photogenic. Just picture it:
Complete digital billboard takeover: With $165,000, we can probably take over one of those big digital billboards and fill it with faces of hundreds of our neighbors for a month. It would be kind of like what we did for PIFA, And wouldn't that be amazing?
Sky's the limit: If we exceed $165,000, the additional resources will allow for:
- additional shoots citywide
- expanded billboard presence
- higher quality book
- & more...
In addition to the book, I'm offering a range of rewards, from greeting cards and stickers to one-on-one photo tutorials and more.
Some rewards will be available right away, and others will come after the photo sessions are complete. See the timeline below.
If you don't see the right reward for you, let me know by adding a comment below. I might add a few extra rewards once I get a sense of what you guys would enjoy!
If you're wondering what it might really look like when people dedicate significant resources to helping me bring about ambitious public displays of images of my neighbors, you've only got to look at the 85,000sqft How Philly Moves mural at PHL International Airport or the month-long PIFA projection project on Broad Street to get a sense of how awesome this can be. Or watch this video:
In my first venture on Kickstarter, 617 beautiful people helped raise $26,270 to continue the How Philly Moves series. That was pretty amazing, and this article in the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal touches on why that was important.
This spring, I launched my second Kickstarter project, trying to raise a bit of cash in a hurry to help me chronicle the March for Rights, Respect & Fair Food. We exceeded our funding goal by 67% when 148 amazing backers helped raise $5,845 in just five days!
- THROUGH OCTOBER 10:
Build an army, raise some money.
- THIS FALL:
Hire project manager, finalize community partners and shoot locations. Preliminary reward fulfillment.
- FALL to SPRING:
Citywide photo sessions.
- LATE SPRING / SUMMER 2014:
Book release, lightbox exhibit, billboard displays, final reward fulfillment.
This third Kickstarter campaign has an ambitious funding target; to pull it off, we're likely going to need over 2,000 people on board. I know that they're out there; I just need your help to reach them.
So please contribute at whatever level feels comfortable (remember, the minimum pledge is just $1) and then invite the beautiful photogenic people that you know to to do the same. Once you're a backer, you'll get all of the updates about the project, and your credit card will only be charged once we get enough people together to reach the funding goal.
I'd love to move forward with this project with your help, but it's not really the project itself that's important. I just hope that while you're here, you take a moment to remember that everyone is photogenic. This has nothing to do with photography, and everything to do with how we see ourselves and our neighbors.
Many thanks, and be well.
* Why Philadelphians?
For starters, that's where I live. Secondly, it's the "City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection", which seems like an appropriate venue for such a project. But you definitely don't need to live in the city limits to participate in this project. All are welcome.
Risks and challenges
I've already done a test run proved that this is doable. There will be a lot of logistics and administration to pull off citywide, so I'll be using some of this money to hire a project manager to keep tabs of it all. As the events will be spread out over the course of the year, there'll be time to constantly tweak the logistics as we keep improving.
There's a delicate balance to be struck here. On one side, the more diverse the group of participants is, the more this project will help allude to the truly universal beauty of our humanity. On the other side, I don't want to rope people in just for diversity's sake, as I'm well aware of how objectifying photography can be. I'll navigate this in much the same way that I did with the outreach for How Philly Moves, which successfully brought together participants from all over the city. Check out the videos on the HPM site for a sense of that.
The lightbox installation will involve some new challenges. Version 1.0 used fluorescents, and v2.0 had an LEC sheet. This new installation will be powered by LEDs. Luckily I have a few techie friends who can help me wire it together.
This'll be easy too. The book will be straight forward and basic, using an easy online printing service; if we raise more money then I'll work with one of my favorite designers to make something even more rad.
The one big tech challenge that might arise is this: If we raise enough money to do a complete takeover of a digital billboard (or two) , there might be some extra programming to do on the back-end to make an algorithm that would cycle through the images in the way that I'd want them to be shown, maximizing diversity with a sense of randomness. Conveniently, I know a bunch of great tech folks who can help me code that.
TIMELINE:Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)