Sticks and Stones

For over twenty years I have photographed a particular social and cultural group of children. Before my eyes and in front of my camera they have passed through adolescence into young adulthood. My goal throughout has been to portray not how the world sees them, but how they see themselves.

I began by working with one child at a time, but as my subjects have grown up and matured, people and relationships have replaced toys and skateboards, both in their lives and in my photographs—siblings and friends, casual acquaintances, and mostly recently, romantic partners.

The “Sticks and Stones” photography series began with an image of one of my frequent subjects and her African-American boyfriend. Her mother and I were catching up when she told me of the cruel taunts hurled at her daughter for dating a boy of another race. As she was speaking I was reminded of another couple many years ago, who had been the object of similar racial slurs. What struck me was the resilience of both couples in the face of derision, their refusal to let others define them.

Two years ago, I began photographing interracial couples of all ages, aiming as always to capture how they see themselves, the world of love and trust they have created despite adversity. In their own handwriting, I added the negative comments they have been subjected to at the bottom of the images as a reminder of how part of society sees them.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” old English nursery rhyme