Born, raised and currently residing in Naples, Florida; I have also spent a large part of my life living in the Pacific Northwest. It is a place I still call home part of the year. These contrasting cultures have inspired me to explore how our individuality and sense of community influence each other. While living in Eugene, I embarked on a portraiture project to capture that essence of a community through the individual portrait. I set up “pop-up” photo booths around town and opened my studio to the public for free portraits. I limited myself to, nondescript backgrounds, sparse props and encouraged sitters to “come as you are”. By limiting the environment, little was known about the context of the subject. This forced me to create a visual vocabulary grounded in details. Subtleties gained importance. The texture of ones skin, a piece of jewelry, a hair out of place became part of the subject’s story. I also tried to capture the “in between moments” when people weren’t yet posturing for the camera. This allowed for a more honest glimpse of the subject.
The wide demographic I was shooting grew to include over 3500 participants. The project has been exhibited as both a mural and in book form. The project brings together demographics, personalities and characters that you might not otherwise find shoulder to shoulder. These juxtapositions are as important to me, as the individual portraits. I’ll be returning to Eugene this summer to continue the project and be expanding to shoot in Naples in the coming months.
© Erin Dougherty Williams