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Engaged Portraiture

"“After you ask,

Can I take your photo?

it’s the 'Yes'

that gives the photo meaning.

This is what I learned.”" 

-Mussa Uwitonze


A series of journalistic-style portraiture that focuses on providing proper context through conversational engagement, captioning, and direct quotations in pursuit of a more accurate and holistic representation of a person's story. 


James Booker


James was standing in a grocery line on East Broadway and Allen St on the Lower East Side. 

"Hey! Take my picture! My name is James Booker, don't forget it."

This is one of my favorite portraits I have ever taken. Although this photo seems like a carefully orchestrated, politically/socially symbolic photo, the reality of its origin was natural and spontaneous. To use a driving metaphor, photojournalists are notorious for their historical tendency to place themselves in the driver's seat of narrating someone else's story. In this moment, I had felt a delightful role reversal when James insisted I capture his moment, putting me in the passenger seat. It is James who deserves the full credit for the story of this photo. I just snapped the picture. 

By insisting that I take his photo, and remember his name, James epitomizes the very purpose of this project.


Camelia Useldinger



On a Saturday in Summer of 2019, Camelia Useldinger got her brunch at Shakespeare and Company on the Rue de la Bûcherie in Paris France. I asked her in line in I could photograph her walking out, to which she replied


"If only you asked me yesterday when I actually had time to get ready. I'm not sure I will make a particularly interesting subject today, but alright."

I think that her posture and expression in this photo captured her general feelings about the day sufficiently. 


Indra Lyons



Indra was walking past the row of Broadway posters when I asked her if she missed the theater. I learned through the conversation following that she did theater in high school, and is somewhat ashamed to say it, but is secretly a self proclaimed theater-nerd. When I asked what she thought of the photo, she replied, 

"It really has a sort of somber vibe to it, which is accurate to how I feel about the state of theater and the world in general. I like me in the doorway there, it works."



After the first 6 hours of her shift at the bakery she owns on the Lower East Side called Partybus Bakeshop, Jacklyn let me take a photo of her break. 

"It's finally around the time of day when I'm sitting down, grab a cup of coffee just... decompressing."

"I really like this photo in particular... it has me looking a little bit hazy, definitely relaxed, and that's definitely how I'm feeling right now: tired, but good tired."




While working at the Emma Peel Room Bar on Broome Street, Matthew engaged me in a conversation about his job. 


"I run this bar, bartend and manage, make sure the ship doesn't catch on fire."

"What I like about that photo is it shows me doing the necessary, boring part of the job. A lot of people think that they can bartend but this photo shows me doing the boring prep part. It doesn't show me interacting with people, it doesn't show me hosting the room... but yeah, I think it's a good shot of what people don't think about."

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