Picture the empty courtyard of an affordable housing complex. A young person steps onto the grass with a tripod on her shoulder. Another unfurls a white backdrop from a duffle bag and begins erecting a metal support system. Residents gather at the edge of the grass and watch eagerly as young artists transform this public space into an outdoor photography studio. Local musicians set up by a picnic table as volunteers bring out trays of snacks and tape balloons to trees.
Before long, the housing complex is abuzz with excitement. Grandmothers rush inside to fix their hair and toddlers are proudly trotted out in tiny suits and purple party dresses. Residents jump and clap to direct their attention, and the courtyard is filled with laughter. More than a courtyard, more than a photography studio, this pubic space has become a laboratory, where new relationships are formed, and new conceptions of community are forged. At the heart of this laboratory, young photographers are making beautiful, thoughtful, fine art portraits.
This is a typical scene at a “We are Portland” Family Portrait Day. “We are Portland” is a youth-run mobile portrait studio that builds community through the arts. Our young photographers offer free interactive arts-focused events to their families, friends, and neighbors, and through the stunning portraits they make, My Story youth can focus the lens of public discourse on the communities they call home. All families who participate in “We are Portland” receive free portraits from their sitting.
Our vision for “We are Portland” is for our young photographers to use community portraiture to fully represent the diversity and vibrancy of the city of Portland, and for our students’ work to be accessible to all Portlanders. To see more of our students’ work from the “We are Portland” project, check out our “Programs” page.
The project infuses public spaces with interactive arts-based experiences that change the way residents view themselves and the places they inhabit. In the midst of the excitement these events generate, new relationships are formed that cross cultural and generational boundaries.
Our vision for “We are Portland” is for our young photographers to use community portraiture to fully represent the diversity and vibrancy of the city of Portland, and for our students’ work to be accessible to all Portlanders. To see more community portraits from the “We are Portland” project, visit our “Programs” page.