Our Common Ground
"What an inspiring collection of people and life stories. This terrific work reminds us that the best role models are the people who live and work beside us everyday, and that each child has the potential to make tremendous contributions." — Marian Wright Edelman
The idea for my book, Our Common Ground: Portraits of Blacks Changing The Face Of America, evolved from a completely selfish idea; I wanted to strengthen my commercial portfolio of photographic portraits.
There were so many amazing people of color I had read about and seen on the news in recent months--some of them lived only minutes from my Manhattan apartment. Being a person of color, I was aware that there were relatively few of us shooting magazine and advertising work. I reached out to a few potential subjects and they were flattered to be asked, and enthusiastic to meet a professional photographer who happened to be Black.
As I worked with each person, I would ask them to suggest another person I should photograph. And their suggestions became more and more interesting. Diverse professions and stories--and I became fascinated by each story. And it was then that I realized I needed to introduce these people to my community...and the world.
How many young Black people think of considering photography as a career? I didn't. As a kid, I just liked to take pictures. For that matter, how many Black kids would think of becoming an engineer or a stonemason? And how many of those kids know what a natural resource biologist is, let alone that they could be one? These were not careers our parents typically steered us towards or thought about.
My goal was to present positive role models who were not necessarily famous, or stereotypical Black role models. I found community leaders working from their kitchen, a young woman who was a stone mason, a college grad student studying astrophysics named Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is now one of the most famous and respected scientists in the world.
Our Common Ground is an invitation to get to know some wonderful people. These people have made an effort to make a difference in the world around them. These people just happen to be Black.