After shooting our last event in West Friendship, MD, Rob and I returned to New York to begin looking for a gallery that would host a We Are the Ones show. Maybe we were naive to think that the Project would be snatched right up, but a few weeks of contacting galleries and hearing back that their schedules are full for the next year was enough to sober our expectations. We briefly toyed with the idea of holding a sneak-peek fundraiser in an alternative space in the city (i.e. a loft or a bar). But the truth is, we were so exhausted from our months of travel, and the idea of throwing something together slapdash seemed a poor expression of so much hard work.
For the record, we’re still working toward a gallery show of the work, but the earliest this would possibly happen (and not seeming so far away now) would be in January as an inauguration celebration!
So last week, with Rob jumping right back into work on a photo shoot in the city, and me without a job or an event to plan, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I spent a few days catching up on our travel blog and writing to the subjects of portraits we thought we might want to use in the book to ask them to submit to us their Stories of Change. But once those tasks were done I found myself restless and disappointed our work hadn’t culminated in some pre-election grandeur.
I spent a day or two in this state, until I woke up with the idea to make a video of our work set to Will.i.am’s song by the same name as our Project. In a day, I scrambled to learn the iMovie software and contacted Will’s management to ask for permission to use the song. The result, after 9 hours of editing 100 of our favorite portraits from the Project to 3 min of music, is something Rob and I are extremely proud of and validated by.
The song “We Are The Ones” originated as a video of celebrities sharing their reasons for endorsing Barack Obama. The video I posted on YouTube still contains the voiceovers of the prominent Obama supporters, but set against images of ordinary Americans, the juxtaposition serves as reminder that we are all fighting for common goals and a shared vision for our country when we endorse (and cast our votes for) Barack Obama.
Within a couple of days the video had been seen by over 1000 people! And spurred on by my plea for Project participants to submit their stories before their impressions were altered by the election results, the Stories of Change also began to roll in. Finally feeling like the Project was on stable footing, Saturday before the election I put it briefly out of my mind to go to a local phone bank and make get-out-the-vote calls to registered democrats. It was so comforting to be surrounded, once again, by grassroots volunteers, and this time, to participate directly in a way I wasn’t able to while we were on the road.
Election day Rob and I went to our Park Slope polling place and waited about an hour in line before we could vote. We were both impressed with the turnout, the long lines seeming to indicate that even our liberal neighborhood didn’t anticipate such high volume. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading the dozens of new Stories of Change submitted at the 11th hour, while Rob worked on finally writing his own. Reading about the personal experiences of these people we’d photographed across the country, reading about their reasons and inspiration for becoming involved in the Obama campaign, was the perfect way to spend election day!
Our cable was out the night of the election and we found ourselves sitting in our neighborhood diner surrounded by our neighbors, strangers and friends. And as the election results began to filter in, state by state, I got a little choked up thinking about specific people we’d met across the country and their dedication to this historic campaign. When North Carolina was called for Obama I broke into audible sobs, and didn’t really recover until the next morning!
Rob and I are so grateful to have been a part of such an incredible movement. While there is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done for the Project, and while we are just beginning the job of reclaiming our democracy and rebuilding this country as so many of us have imagined it, we can all take heart in the fact that together we’ve accomplished an incredible feat. We truly Are the Ones we’ve been waiting for.