'WE THE PEOPLE
WE THE PEOPLE by Myriam Abdelaziz
In August 2015, after 10 years of living in the United States I received an email from my immigration attorney, asking me if I was ready to file for American citizenship. I soon realized I didn’t know if I was - ready to become an American citizen. What did that even mean? Was this who I was now: a potential American? Having lived in New York for a decade I knew I was ready to be called a New Yorker. But an American? That was nowhere as clear. I took time to think about it, wondering if I would fit in, wondering if this is where my heart was.
A year later I still had my doubts, so I decided to take the road, to go meet the rest of the country, to go meet “The People.” I wanted to find out who were the Americans and what it meant to be an American. I drove 10,000 miles over the course of 3 months and photographed the people I randomly met during the trip.
I was welcomed everywhere and people were eager to help me with my project, proposing itineraries, offering hospitality in their homes and putting me in touch with other contacts who could help me down the road. My doubts about fitting in as an American faded pretty fast and instead a sense of belonging grew in me. A month after I returned home in New York, Donald Trump was elected as the new President of the United States, leaving the world surprised by the choice of the Americans: Who voted for him? What did that mean? What was going to happen now?
‘We the People’ is a book project - a catalog of Americans from all paths of life, background, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, social class, political affiliation and sexual orientation. I photographed them throughout the country, just as they are, just as I met them, trying to understand them, trying all the while to see them as one by bringing them together instead of separating and labeling them. Instead of singling out individuals who would stress social divisions further, my aim is for the viewer to get a sense of a complex community layered with contradictions.
Landscapes are included to add context information, as well as a sense of space and environment.
To underscore this approach, all portraits in the book will be anonymous - to discourage the involuntary attribution of particular attitudes to particular names - and all excerpts from conversations with the subjects will be scattered randomly throughout the book, preempting any attempt to attribute a particular quote to a particular person pictured. The aim of the book is not to create yet another collection of individual biographies, but to sketch out the outlines of a national biographies through the faces and situations that make up “We, the people”.