#countmein is a series of fine art portraits created in collaboration with the Museum of Art & History (MOAH) in Lancaster, CA. This documentary project was designed to engage and inform the community about the 2020 Census. As the artist in residence / photographer for the project, I was tasked with making portraits of the people that live, work and visit the neighborhoods surrounding the museum. Knowing that this census tract has historically been under-reported during past censuses, it was clear that my interactions with people were an important opportunity to engage and inform them about the value of being counted. In addition to discussing the ways census participation could benefit their region by providing increased congressional representation and funding, I wanted to make each participant feel valued.
From the senior center to a tattoo parlor, to young dancers performing at a recital, to the TAY kids (Transitional Age Youth) sharing their stories as they leave the foster care system, I was honored to meet so many people that opened their hearts, and trusted me to make their portrait. And though I originally thought I was coming to this project to give people the gift of being noticed, I quickly learned that I was the one receiving the benefit.
Working on the #countmein portrait project in Lancaster, CA made me see this community in a new way. I slowed down to talk to shop clerks and the kids skateboarding in the alley; I chatted with the mailman, security guards, and people shopping in the stores. Every person greeted me with a smile, and an air of trust and openness. That's something special about Lancaster that renewed my faith in humanity, and I thank each, and every participant for their kind welcome.
©JANE SZABO 2010-2023, Los Angeles, CA jane(at)janeszabophotography(dot)com