The trending What I Be Project came to campus to photograph students on Sunday. The project is an initiative started by photographer Steve Rosenfield that aims to identify and challenge personal insecurities.
Rosenfield has photographed everything from events such as weddings and family portraits to musicians such as Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis. His initiative officially started in 2010 and began as, “A social experiment that is now a global movement about honesty and empowerment,” according to the group’s website. The initiative is on tour to schools throughout the nation.
Rosenfeld says he wants his photos to let individuals express their inner feelings. “I wanted to do something with my passion that had more meaning,” said Rosenfeld on his website. The name of the initiative originated from a song, “What I Be,” by artist Michael Franti.
Students were excited to participate. “Being a part of the What I Be Project was in a sense being a part of a movement”, said first year student Damonta Morgan. “It was a great feeling to be a part of an initiative that taught people so much about others and so much about themselves.” He says that he used the initiative to get over his insecurities. “By confessing to the world the thing that I am most insecure about served as a medium through which I could free myself from the problem,” said Morgan. “I would recommend this project to anyone who wants to get over a situation that they are struggling with.”
Students from every walk of life claimed the project made them feel apart of a larger community. “Being in the What I Be project made me feel closer to the GW student body and to those who have participated from other schools,” said Lauren Shiplett. “You’re all spilling your biggest insecurity and there’s something both liberating and terrifying in that, and I think we all can unite in that feeling.”
The event was organized by GW students Aviva Stone, Brian Doyle, Carrie Blodi, Eli Rudy, Jackie Andrews and Kyle Ragan. Stone proposed the idea to GW and worked with the Student Association to make it happen. The student leaders felt that their peers on campus could use an event like this in the wake of four student deaths in the span of a semester. “We hope people will realize that they are not alone and that we can all relate in some way,” said Andrews.
With the limit on the number of participants who could sign up quickly reached, the organizers hope to bring the initiative back to campus in the future. While the group used social media to reach students, they hope they can reach an even more diverse group of students the next time.
A closing ceremony and gallery event will take place on May 2 from 7:30-10:30 pm in room 403 of the Marvin Center.
While individuals have been posting their photo as their profile picture, participants and leaders alike say it’s not about the attention. “Getting an attention grabbing and professional Facebook photo is not the point,” said Shiplett. “It is about taking off your shield, exposing your humanness and realizing that we’re all in this together.”