We The People© Myriam Abdelaziz
In August 2015, after 10 years of living in the United States, I received an email from my immigration attorney asking me if I was ready to file for American citizenship. I soon realized I didn’t know if I was.
Ready to become an American citizen: what did that even mean? Was this who I was now: a potential American? Having lived in New York for a decade I knew I was ready to be called a New Yorker. But an American? That wasn't anywhere as clear. I took the time to think about it, wondering if I would fit in, wondering if this is where my heart was.
A year later I still had my doubts, so I decided to take the road, to go meet the rest of the country, to go meet ‘The People’. I wanted to find out who were the Americans and what it meant to be an American. I drove 10,000 miles over the course of 3 months and photographed the people I randomly met during the trip.
I was welcomed everywhere and people were eager to help me with my project, proposing itineraries, offering hospitality in their homes and putting me in touch with other contacts who could help me down the road.
My doubts about fitting in as an American faded pretty fast and instead of a sense of belonging grew in me.
A month after I returned from the last sortie, Donald Trump was elected as the new President of the United States, leaving the world surprised by the choice of the Americans: Who voted for him? What did that mean? What was going to happen now?
‘We the People’ project is a form of a catalogue of Americans from all paths of life, background, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, social class, political affiliation and sexual orientation. I photographed them throughout the country, just as they are, just as I met them, trying to understand them, trying all the while to see them as one by bringing them together instead of separating and labelling them so the viewer gets the sense of diversity, presenting a complex community layered of contradictions instead of pointing out individuals which would stress the social division further.
While this body of work is dedicated to unfolding the sheer complexity and variety of the American identity, I have decided not to include any of the subject names; both to respect their privacy, and, more importantly, to protect them from the all-too-easy categorizing triggered by first and last names, and to underscore their standing as representatives of the American story - rather than a haphazard collection of individual biographies.
click to view the complete set of images in the archive