‘What I Be’ Project Aims to Empower Students

Emma Dahl

This week the Whitman Events Board, the Office of Admission and Whitman Active Minds have brought a unique art and social justice project to campus called “What I Be.”

According to photographer Steve Rosenfield, the creator of the project, the objective of “What I Be” is to combat insecurities by identifying

Photo by Emily Volpert
Photo by Emily Volpert

individuals’ fears and then photographing these individuals with their particular insecurity written somewhere on their face, hands or arms. It is meant to be a cathartic and empowering experience for anyone who chooses to take part.

“‘What I Be’ will provide an opportunity for students to find the incredible diversity within our population and recognize that many of us might share similar characteristics, but we are all our own people,” said first-year Chloe Weinstock in an email.

Rosenfield describes his project on his website: “Subjects are putting their insecurities out in the open and exposing a side of themselves that nobody has seen before. By stating ‘I am not my_______,’ they are claiming that they do in fact struggle with these issues, but it does not define who they are as a person … It is to spread awareness on what people go through due to society’s paved roads.”

Weinstock was the driving force behind bringing “What I Be” to Whitman. She was inspired to do so after watching Voices of Whitman at the beginning of the school year.

“The purpose of this project is to create an awareness of your own and others’ insecurities and to open people’s minds to the stories of others. This project allows people to step into the shoes of another and find compassion and maybe even empathy within themselves,” said Weinstock.

But will this project be beneficial to Whitman students in particular? Weinstock thinks it will be particular beneficial for such a homogeneous student body.

“I think that it will change the way that we see our community in a really positive way … I hear a lot of people say that [Whitman students are] all the same, that there is too much of one kind of person. While this may be true in some ways, it is definitely false in others. Every single one of us has our own unique story, our own fears and self-doubts.”

Junior Kristen Wiseman, president of Active Minds, had a hand in bringing “What I Be” to campus as well. She explained that the take-home point of the project is that everyone has insecurities.

“We are all the same in that we have these things that drive us forward or hold us back in life, yet the details and how they affect us make us different,” said Wiseman in an email.

Rosenfield will conduct 45-minute sessions with one student at a time to discuss their stories and insecurities, with the end product being a

Photo by Emily Volpert
Photo by Emily Volpert

photograph and statement of “I am not my_______.” Rosenfield will be at Whitman photographing a total of 75 students until Saturday, Feb. 8. The final pictures will be posted on the project website, www.whatibeproject.com, and on the Whitman Facebook page.