culture

Here I am by Shani Storey

A tribute to the Black community in Portland

+PDXJune 29th 2022

Shani shares that "the inspiration behind 'here i am' comes from my experience of being a Black woman born, raised and residing in portland. To those on the outside, those who have not been exposed to the Black community in Portland, assuming the community does not exist. So much so, upon meeting me, the question is begged from many outsiders; “there are Black people in portland?” This notion is confirmed when Black outsiders move to the city and express disappointment in the difficulty to find and connect with the Black community."

Her project is a tribute to our community. Her project is the proof that the Black community not only exists in Portland, but is also bound together by the strongest of ties. This project is our way of saying, here i am.

What’s your name and what do you do at W+K?

My name is Shani Storey. I am a creative producer at W+K.

What is here i am and why did you decide to make it?

here i am is a photo book of portraits taken by myself of Black Portland. I decided to create this book because I wanted to show what Black Portland looks like. I’ve been asked often by new Black Portlanders who have just moved to the city, “where are the Black people at?” Being born + raised in Portland I have my family here, I have the ability to have that community / support around all the time, unlike new transplants that are searching for theirs. I wanted to show that we are here, and we exist.

__Why did you choose to use photographs? __

I saw a quote that said, “If you don’t photograph yourself, you die forever. Nobody remembers you, nobody knows you. You are doing it for future remembrance.” I think that says it all.

What were the reactions of some of the subjects you photographed?

Everyone was extremely grateful for being able to be a part of the project. There were some people who didn’t like getting their photo taken, but still wanted to be a part. They knew that by being a part of this project that they were going to be a part of Portland’s history.

What was the process like for you?

This was a completely new avenue for me. I had never done something like this, something like this meaning creating my own book + photographing subjects all on my own. It was at times overwhelming, some self doubt sprinkled in and a little bit of imposter syndrome. I had to remember why I decided to create this book so that I would keep pushing to finish. My idea changed about 3 times on what the book was going to look like. I started out by posting on social media to get people interested / to sign up. From there I had 3 shoot days in the studio and 3 days out on location, taking photos of about 100+ people. I then worked on editing the photos (also something new to me) and then sent them to a designer who helped create the layout of the book. I’ve had this idea brewing for about a year and finally in the last few months was able to see it come to life.

What do you hope people take away from your book?

A sense of community. To see a glimpse of what the Black community looks like.

__What advice do you have for Black people who move to Portland and might be struggling to find community? __

My number 1 rule is DO NOT LIVE IN NW! All jokes aside, my advice would be to continue to look, we are here! The community is growing bigger every year with new people coming from all over.

How do people get a copy of here i am?

As of right now, quantity is limited. Only 200 books were printed! You can email me to see if there are some still available. shanistorey@gmail.com

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