In recent weeks, I’ve heard multiple ‘outsiders’ speak about how friendly people are in Atlanta, and what a welcoming place it is to shoot. After one-to-many encounters with extreme harassment while shooting street photography in my city, I thought this to be a bit of a misled sentiment. Last Saturday my growing disbelief that Atlanta’s friendly nature shines through was put at ease. As I made my way down to the V-103/WAOK Car and Bike Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, I was greeted with smiling friendly faces with each encounter. Once I reached the event, this trend continued, and my faith in my fellow Atlantans was once again renewed.
I approach event coverage in the style of a street photographer. I walk around until I find something I like, and then I watch, and wait. I engage when engaged, but often keep to myself, using a knowing glance or smile to request photographic permission. This has a tendency to create a feeling of isolation and loneliness, even in a crowd of thousands. However, the pervasive friendliness and openness of this crowd created an adverse reaction. I felt as though I belonged – that I was a part of something. This is the same feeling that grows on a different scale as I document my city and better understand it’s elusive identity. This need to belong is a universal thirst, I believe, and one that seems best quenched through family, friends, and community.
It is this need to understand my community, and my place within that space that drives me to continue work on this project. It is not money or recognition, but simply the desire to belong.