Many Faces One Humanity is a project that celebrates human diversity through photographic narratives, a project that spans many years in the making. What is immediately apparent in my photographs are the obvious differences in age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion and life experiences. Every portrait features individuals who met only moments before the shutter was tripped.
Every individual is a unique expression of creation, however we are each a part of one human family. By promoting an appreciation for our amazing diversity in Milwaukee, we can transcend cultural preconceptions, learn from each other, and evolve to a higher state of self-awareness. I wanted to show that, although distinctly dissimilar, each of the individuals portrayed shares a uniquely mortal connection with their fellow man. Captured in these moments is the joy of creating the personal awareness of a soul solidarity and universal kinship, a shared humanity.
As a photographer and producer for advertising campaigns I know the powerful emotions that an image can evoke. Photography is a universal language. Originally I planned on having an art exhibit that would travel, one that was meant to inspire others about the possibility of human connection.
My photography exhibit was intended to show we have global diversity in Milwaukee. I was interested in presenting the viewer with a sense of two different, but united realities. The individuals photographed appear at first to be polar opposites, but all live in Milwaukee. The joyful energy radiated by the many faces is evident in all of the people who were photographed. The oneness is felt on a level that is immediately apparent as we look deep into their eyes and the smiles we see create a common thread. We are not worlds apart. The resulting images, individually and as a collection, serve to illustrate our extraordinary shared humanity.
I have always been curious, friendly and interested in other cultures. My world has expanded as the project has spiraled out in so many ways. It has allowed me to immerse myself culturally in the greater Milwaukee area for the last 10 years. I have forged many deep relationships with people from all walks of life. Over time, however, the project has taken on a life of its own and the depth of the concept of unity in a city that has been so divided has begun to feel like a spiritual mission as well.
The Many Faces One Humanity project is unique as it shows the many layers of people who make up the fabric of our community, people that have never met prior to this photo shoot.
I was inspired by the work of Richard Avedon as he often utilized life size images. The intimacy of life size images makes them even more powerful.
I deeply appreciate the community leaders that have embraced the Many Faces One Humanity project and for making it their mission to create an opportunity to share this model as one we strive to create in Milwaukee. It is exciting to see it blossoming to the next level where we share these cultures with each other, creating a stronger more harmonious community.
“Our goal is to challenge, inspire, highlight and link creative responses to the Milwaukee area’s unrealized potential and urgent social issues by individuals and organizations. We want to celebrate the beautifully colorful human fabric of Milwaukee and, rather than being a reactionary campaign, Many Faces One Humanity is rooted in love and compassion.”
This nonprofit and the art that started it focuses on our neighbors and community members as friends and seeing what we have in common rather than dwelling on those things that make us different. Through art, great change and a unique bond can form, as it transcends time, place, ethnicity, gender and religion in our ability to take it in and appreciate it.
Many Faces One Humanity is more than a single program. The non-profit has opened doors for community conversation and an educational program to help develop visual literacy in young students. I am so excited about the future of the project and the seeds that have been planted, especially working with the youth in our community. I think its such a joyful opportunity to teach the art of photography to students to let them know they have a voice as a means of self-expression.
I invite you to join Many Faces One Humanity in turning the words to describe Milwaukee from segregated to connected, hateful to understanding and discrimination to acceptance. Share your thoughts and photos on our Facebook page, onehumanitymke, and visit our website to learn more about our programs.
by Sherry Lemke
CEO, Artist and Photographer of Many Faces One Humanity