Two years ago, on Memorial Day, I was traveling from state to state, working on a book project entitled Future American President. As I drove toward Indianapolis, Indiana I spotted what appeared to be a large group having a holiday barbeque. From the highway I could see tons of cars outside the home and a big green and white tent. For the Future American President project, I approached strangers all over America and asked them if I could photograph their children. As you can imagine, it was a bit scary doing this.
When I first saw the house from the highway I envisioned a large family having a great time together enjoying the holiday. I thought an image of a family spending time together in this way would be powerful and that families all over America would be able to relate to such an image. Something inside me said, go and knock on the door and introduce myself…Then my internal fight started. Part of me wanted to knock on the door and tell them about my project, but then part of me didn’t want to intrude. What if they wanted to be left alone? What if they thought I was some crazy lunatic? Also, lets face it, what if they were scared, (or hated) Black people? This was the internal fight that went on in my head as I drove down the highway. Two miles later, I thought about the words, “you have not, because you ask not.” I turned the car around and drove back to the house.
I truly believe God protects me throughout my travels wherever I go, so I can never really be fearful. The fear is always in your head. As I pulled up to the driveway, my heart was beating a million miles a minuet. It seemed no matter how many times I approached strangers and told them about my project, it didn’t get any easier. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a smiling face who asked, “can I help you?” I introduced myself and started talking about how I saw the family gathering and told her what I was doing. She said, “well it sounds like a great thing you’re doing but you’d have to ask the owners of the house.” Then she invited me in and took me out back where I saw about 30 people having a great time. I was introduced to the couple hosting the gathering and told them about my project and why I decided to stop at their home on Memorial Day. I showed them images on my ipad of other families I’d photographed around the country and they loved the project. Then they said, “well, who would you want to photography because there are a lot of kids here?” I said, how about the youngest child here? The next thing I knew I was being introduced to a young mother with a 7 week-old baby.