In his powerful project titled What I Be, photographer Steve Rosenfield captures individuals as they reveal their innermost insecurities. In each raw portrait, the subjects’ skin is scribbled with the doubts, fears, and needs that plague them.
The subjects of the What I Be series represent a diverse group of people struggling with self-esteem, self-acceptance, anxiety, and other afflictions. In some cases, the individuals reveal the normally-concealed challenges they face on a daily basis, ranging from hard-to-maintain fragile façades to lingering loneliness. Other portraits detail the subjects’ deepest desires, like affection, conventional beauty, and a “stamp of approval,” while the rest seem to serves as hard-to-remember reminders; “you only get one chance,” “confidence goes a long way,” and “rise above” are just a few examples of these motivational mantras.
Whether confessions or quotations, the text detailed in the What I Be project serves a single purpose: to empower. Rosenfield began the series in 2010 as a way to lift people up and remind them that one’s happiness should not be dictated by others’ impossible standards. “In today’s society, we are often told to look or act a certain way,” the photographer explains on the project’s website. “If we differ from these ‘standards,’ we are often judged, ridiculed, bullied and sometimes even killed over them. I started this project in hopes to open up the lines of communication, and to help everyone accept diversity with an open mind and heart and empower those who feel they suffer for something they may see as a flaw.”
Over the last 7 years, Rosenfield has taken thousands of photos for this liberating series. You can see all of the empowering images on his website.