Our Story

Child in MST encampment, Apiai, Brazil, 2006

Child in MST encampment, Apiai, Brazil, 2006

Greetings!

If you’re seeing this, chances are you’ve been part of the Self-Portrait Project at some point in time, whether by participating in it, or being one of our valued partners, or by having supported us in some sort of way. This year we celebrate 10 years of the project, and I’d like to take the opportunity to share our story with you.

The Self-Portrait Project (SPP) was founded with social justice ideals as its roots and a love of photography as its driving force. Before creating SPP, I was a co-founder of the multi-media non-profit Other Worlds, which sought to document case studies of living, thriving alternative economies around the world.

Guest at wedding, Kati, Mali, 2007

Guest at wedding, Kati, Mali, 2007

MST encampment, Apiai, Brazil, 2006

MST encampment, Apiai, Brazil, 2006

Worker in bread factory, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006. Photos by Andy Lin.

Worker in bread factory, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2006. Photos by Andy Lin.

During my time with Other Worlds, I traveled the globe photographing social movements such as the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (MST); worker-controlled factories in Argentina; a gifting economy in Mali; and the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico. Ingrained in many of these societies is the belief that decisions are best made by those directly affected by them, or, said another way, “nothing about us without us”. I saw this idea manifested, for example, in the glass workers of Buenos Aires who together determined how many hours they worked per week and how much pay they received for their labor at the factory, and in the Brazilian farmers who occupied fallow parcels of land for years so that they could transform them into brilliant autonomous utopias.

The mirror & remote control used in SPP are intentional ways of modeling the above paradigm of self-determination: you use the mirror to choose how you want to present yourself in the final picture, and you have agency over when you take that picture with the remote control. Not only is it a way of capturing a compelling, uniquely honest portrait, but it also mimics a core tenet of some of the social justice movements around the world which are upending existing, often inequitable, power structures. To me, it is a minor act of rebellion, captured in a moment of light.

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The face of the project has always changed contour according to the kind of people who have stepped in front of the mirror. So: thank you for helping shape the Self-Portrait Project into what it is today. We’ll plan to continue sharing things we find important with you - not too often and not without good cause - unless you choose not to receive them. And we look forward to continuing our story with you.


Andy Lin

Founder/Creative Director