Asking people you that don't know for photos often annoys them or gets their defenses up. It's understandable. I have to do some explaining about why sending a picture to the Galesburg Portrait Project is a good thing.
From the beginning of this project it became apparent that internalized cultural norms play a significant part in whether people participate. Some people find away to communicate that they aren't comfortable enough with the way they look to send a picture. It's changed the way I talk about the project:
Our culture is awash in images designed to make us feel inadequate. These images assert that you would be a lot happier if you drove the right car, wore different clothes, lost a little weight with this miracle product for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
The Galesburg Portrait Project asserts that you are worthwhile exactly as you are. In fact, you are so worthwhile that your throwaway selfie from among the thousands of images on your phone will get hours of focused attention, get reproduced by hand in a manner that will last for centuries, because you matter without reference to the power structures in this culture.
Move over, Louie. Move over, Entrainment Tonight. The people of Galesburg are joining the history of portraiture.
If this is going to look like Galesburg, I need more men. Veterans. Former Maytag employees. African American and Latino men. 20-30 something construction workers. Tell them to go have a beer and me a picture.