Portraits of People Exposing Their Issues and Insecurities to the Camera


“Building Security Through Insecurity.” That’s the tagline of photographer Steve Rosenfield‘s “What I Be Project.” Each portrait in the ongoing series is one in which the subject uses some text to reveal the issues and insecurities that he or she struggles with.

“It’s all about honesty,” the Davis, California-based photographer says. “Each person that takes part in the project is extremely courageous. They are putting their insecurities out in the open, and exposing a side of themselves that nobody has seen before.”

The portrait above is subject Alexandre Candide’s statement, “I am not my eating disorder.”

Each subject was asked to come up with a personal issue that completes the sentence, “I am not my…” By photographing the men and women with their struggles, Rosenfield is helping them to both acknowledge the things they deal with, yet at the same time proclaim that those things do not define them as a person. Rosenfield writes,

[The purpose of the project] is to spread awareness on what people go through due to society’s paved roads. These are serious issues that some of us can live with, but most battle on a day to day basis. I encourage every viewer to look at each image and put yourself in the individuals shoes. By allowing yourself to feel what they feel, you might realize something you’ve never noticed before.

"I am not my number"

“I am not my number” — Ellen

"I am not my ethnicity"

“I am not my ethnicity” — Valerie Christina

"I am not my hyperactivity" -- Matt S Gibson.

“I am not my hyperactivity” — Matt S Gibson.

"I am not my Goltz syndrome" -- Cara Dee Jörgensen

“I am not my Goltz syndrome” — Cara Dee Jörgensen

"I am not my breed"

“I am not my breed”

"I am not my music" -- Jorge Lee.

“I am not my music” — Jorge Lee.

"I am not my drama"

“I am not my drama”

"I am not my shortness" -- Michael De Nardi.

“I am not my shortness” — Michael De Nardi.

"I am not my small breasts" -- Katie Munson.

“I am not my small breasts” — Katie Munson.

"I am not my exterior" -- Roberto Comochingas

“I am not my exterior” — Roberto Comochingas

"I am not my academics"

“I am not my academics”

"I am not my turban" -- Makhan Virk.

“I am not my turban” — Makhan Virk.

"I am not my abortion" -- Michelle Camp

“I am not my abortion” — Michelle Camp

"I am not my thoughts" -- Leify Green.

“I am not my thoughts” — Leify Green.

"I am not my motor skills" -- Caitlin Castanon

“I am not my motor skills” — Caitlin Castanon

"I am not my calves" -- Michael Najarian

“I am not my calves” — Michael Najarian

"I am not my impulses"

“I am not my impulses”

"I am not my adoption" --  Michael Franti

“I am not my adoption” — Michael Franti

"I am not my body" -- Margaret Harris

“I am not my body” — Margaret Harris

"I am not my mood swings" -- Christiana Munson

“I am not my mood swings” — Christiana Munson

"I am not my hook ups" -- Chris Argumedo

“I am not my hook ups” — Chris Argumedo

"I am not my color" -- Savannah Lewison

“I am not my color” — Savannah Lewison

"I am not my invasion" --  Lesley M-i

“I am not my invasion” — Lesley M-i

In addition to posing for a portrait, each subject was also asked to explain his or her photo through a 500-word-or-less statement. You can view some of the already received statements over on the project’s website. Head on over if you’d like to see more of these portraits as well.

Image credits: Photographs by Steve Rosenfield and used with permission

  • Dave Reynolds

    Wow. Powerful project.

  • Kyle Adams


  • RBM

    Powerful in that the emotions that are being summed up and shared are nearly impossible to express in anything less than a lengthy written story.
    Yet in a single photo, the message is clearly shared, and clearly understood by the viewer. The backstory isn’t known, but that’s what writing is for.
    Definitely NOT another lame and quirky “theme” project that seem to populate the internets these days.

  • Syuaip


    Simple yet very powerful.


  • Trim

    Great project, but I disagree with some of the photos specifically. Many of these seem like people who are upset that they’re being held accountable for thier behavior. “I am not my mood swings” yes you are… “I am not my hookups” no, but you’re a man-whore and you should be treated accordingly by potential partners. “I am not my drama” Yeah, you are. You are nothing except what you present to the world. If you “hate” drama, but surround yourself with it, then you need to be held accountable for your life decisions.

    I love the body image ones, and the molestation, but I feel that the others drastically weaken the set as a whole.

  • RBM

    It may be an error to believe that these folks have control over their “mood swings”, “hookups”, and “drama”……all of which can be solid manifestations of of mental illness.

    I believe that’s the point of the project, that others not assume that these people “are” simply the optics they present.

  • Kevin W

    My problem is that in the same project we have a holocaust survivor and then we have someone who wishes not to be defined as Asian…

    For some reason this project left a bad tasted in my mouth.

  • tyrohne

    A lot of these miss the mark for me… “mosquito bites”, “hook ups”, “drama”, “hyperactivity”, “exterior”, “exotic” all fall flat and the fact that you have to broadcast out your barbaric ‘yawp’ of insecurity in and of itself is the biggest insecurity of all.

    It seems too manufactured and as if the artist is trying too hard to say something that fundamentally, is meaningless…

  • Rocknrope

    Interesting project. But calves? Seriously?

  • Michael Comeau

    ‘I am not my hookups’ is a humblebrag.

  • eni turkeshi imagery


  • tarena1991


  • KewlDewd

    Don’t forget the guy with small calves. Good grief, if that was my biggest problem…

  • Steven Wade

    The Michael Franti one doesn’t make sense to me: “I am not my adoption” and “The Child Nobody Wanted”. If he was adopted, someone wanted him and he is not giving his adopted parents the respect they deserve.

  • KewlDewd

    Whether a person has control of their shortcomings or not doesn’t make those shortcomings any less a part of what makes them who they are. By the same token a genetically fortunate person is no less good looking because their looks are out of their control. But I understand the point of this project. (like you said, that these people are simply defined by the one shortcoming) But what I think takes away from the cred of this a bit are the ones like small calves and breasts. Do you really think a good looking guy that happens to have small calves is known around town as “small calves guy” or that people ignore that that girl is prettier than the vast majority and everyone calls her “mosquito bites”? I doubt it. I believe those are perceptions in their own minds. Something for them to overcome individually and not society at large.

  • Jordan Flynn

    Agreed. Great portraits with a powerful subject though it feels a little mixed up having holocaust survivors and victims of abuse etc next to people worried about their “drama” or “hookups”. Excellent work none the less.

  • Chris Williams

    Talk about storytelling. So much is said with so little, yet there’s so much more we don’t know. Very well done Mr. Rosenfield!

  • Norshan Nusi

    Dude…It looks like a Nikon ad with the “I am” quotes O_O

  • Tyler Brown

    Steve (the photographer) can’t force these people into truly putting themselves out there. Take a look through his site and you’ll see hundreds of people who are brave enough to be honest with themselves and plenty of others who don’t take the chance at exposing themselves.

    The reality that this project is trying to paint though is that while “small calves guy” may seem like it weakens the project, the purpose is to show that even the most ruggedly handsome people have insecurities about themselves, valid or not.

    The point of the project isn’t for people to say, “aw, you’re not fat!” but to show that this seemingly perfect person struggles with insecurities, large or small, like everyone else.

  • Goddes FourWinds

    I’m sure she was teased for having small breasts. Otherwise she wouldn’t be in this list. Man. Get over yourself already.

  • Dana

    Your nose is a part of what makes you who you are.

    Are you your nose?

    That’d be like saying a skyscraper is a window.

  • Dana

    I think you need to attain a greater understanding of what a mood swing IS. And I haven’t read the hookup guy’s essay, and maybe I’m naive, but he’s not exactly saying he has a new woman in his bed every night, is he? Maybe he just keeps it casual and doesn’t commit to anyone. And yes, people *are* judged for doing that, whether it’s five or fifteen or fifty people they haven’t committed to.

    It takes more than one person to create drama, too. I’m tired of hearing idiots saying “don’t surround yourself with drama” when every single person in the dramatic situation is contributing to it–one person sitting around crying for no reason does not a dramatic situation make. There’s always one person who gets blamed, though, for five or six (or more) people’s bad behavior–and from where I’m sitting, it’s usually a woman being blamed when men are contributing to the situation too. They’re longsuffering decent dudes. She’s a drama whore. Not okay.

  • Dana

    It is a natural human desire to want to be wanted by the people who brought you into this world. Biology matters a lot more than the adoption industry wants you to believe. If you don’t think so, stop breathing for half an hour. There you go. Biology matters.

    I will say that his belief no one wanted him is as much a product of the adoption industry’s propaganda as YOUR belief that he should be grateful to someone for doing what they were supposed to do in the first place (hate to break it to you, but when you see a kid all by himself who needs a family, you are *supposed* to take care of him, not let him starve and die, even if he’s not yours). Unless he was abused and in foster care, which is entirely possible, he was surrendered soon after his birth, and it’s very likely his mother felt coerced into the relinquishment due to financial issues and/or a nonsupportive network of family and so-called “friends.” That happens a lot more than society or the adoption industry want to admit.

    Even if he were in foster care, believe it or not, a lot of the parents who lose kids to CPS actually wanted their kids and were willing to raise them, but had issues with mental illness or drug abuse (which, really, is another kind of mental illness, or an expression of same) which made them less than safe for the kids 24/7. We don’t have a system set up to help these families. We remove the kids and cause them another kind of trauma. Then we make the return of the kids contingent on the parent straightening up. In a nation, mind you, with very little meaningful, consistent, long-term, and easily-affordable treatment for mental illness OR drug abuse. (It’s rich celebs, not street people, checking themselves into famous rehab centers.) So the system is telling this kid, “If your parents want you, they will clean up,” and when the parent(s) fail at cleaning up it’s, “Well, guess they didn’t want you, so we’ll look for a forever family for you now.” That has a powerfully traumatic effect on children, let me tell you.

    If that was his situation it’s also very likely he was bounced from foster home to foster home before he was finally adopted, because no one wants to take responsibility for a child unless they get to put their name on said child like he’s their own personal pencil box. But that goes along with people not understanding that we are supposed to take care of children who need care, whether they’re our kids or not. It’s a pervasive atmosphere of selfishness and self-centeredness when faced with the plight of the needy. And this is why the United States is falling apart now. Because *everyone* becomes “needy” sooner or later, so *none* of us are getting enough help.

  • Dana

    She didn’t say she didn’t want to be identified as Asian. She said she didn’t want to be identified as exotic.

    I don’t know what it is with people lately not wanting to LISTEN to what other people have to say, but I’m getting really tired of it.

  • Dana

    I am seriously disgusted by the comments here from people complaining that they were not entertained enough by this photo series.

    It is not the purpose of art to make you comfortable, morons. It *can* do that, but it doesn’t *have* to. If you have issues with some of these photographs, they are YOUR issues and YOU need to deal with that. The photographer and the subjects have not in any way wronged or cheated you.

    F?!king entitled privileged wastes of skin and oxygen. This kind of crap is why this country is in such a mess. “ME, ME, ME. Gimme that! It’s mine!”

  • Sophia Fletcher

    As an adoptee, Steven Wade, I can tell you that it colors every aspect of your life. Being rejected by the one who brought you into this world is not cause for gratitude, any more than not being hit by a bus would be, except to thank God for sparing your life. Abandonment, rejection, self-esteem, identity, all comes into play. And one should NEVER assume that all adoptive parents are wonderful. Case in point, the Baby Veronica story out of OK/SC. Those adoptive parents don’t care what’s best for the child. They just know that they paid a large sum of money to her birthmother, and by golly, even if her daddy wants her, they will have her for their very own little possession. The paradigm of adoption is that even if someone later wanted you or “chose” you–bottom line is, in most cases, someone did NOT.

  • Saywhat

    Do some research before you comment. He was put up for adoption because his father was black and his mother thought her family wouldn’t except him.

  • Positive Note

    I’ve seen him, on stage, sing his mother’s praises for not only adopting him but for raising him with extraordinary love. He brought her out on stage and gave her the most heartfelt hug and acknowledgement. There was no lack of respect. Just because he started off as “The Child Nobody Wanted” doesn’t mean he stayed that way. No doubt his mother understands that.