This photo project tackles what it's like to deal with everyday prejudice
Discrimination comes in many shapes and sizes: Whether because of our race, gender, ability, or countless other factors, we each face a unique set of prejudices and micro-aggressions every day. For those unfamiliar, micro-aggressions are casual (and often unintentional) acts of discrimination or dismissal, which alienate the recipient and serve to further isolate marginalized groups. It’s not something we talk about nearly enough — but two university students have created a photo project that they hope will help change that.
Started by Harriet Evans and Paula Akpan, the “I’m Tired” project aims to shed light both on everyday prejudice and the negative effects that it can have on us. Shot by photographer Ming Au, the photos portray people’s backs, painted with a phrase expressing what they’re most tired of. The series covers everything from stereotypes about sexuality, race, gender, and more — with plans to expand into other social issues not yet addressed so far.
The two were originally inspired by the Free the Nipple movement, but found that most people were hesitant to participate if their faces and chests were exposed. So they went back to the drawing board.
“Harriet and I were bouncing ideas off of each other and thought that instead we could have quotations of some sort written on people’s backs,” Paula told HelloGiggles. “This way it’s anonymous if the person chooses, as you never see anyone’s face, but also synonymous with the idea that someone has been labeled by society.”
“We kept discussing what sort of quotes we could have written on the backs, and eventually it came to things that we are tired of: Tired of being ‘the angry black woman,’ tired of being told ‘I’ve never slept with a black girl,’ tired of being called ‘bossy,'” she continued. “Thus, ‘I’m Tired’ was born!”
The project also draws inspiration from Humans of New York, and each of the photos includes a caption that allows the subjects to expand on what is written on their backs.
“We thought it was great to have a picture that told a story on its own, but also important for the person who’s sharing their story to be able to explain their lived experiences and why it is important to them,” Paula told us.
Frustrated by groups that don’t “use their following for any sort of ‘good'” — sharing petitions, protests, or important projects — the two wanted to create something that highlighted real social problems and encouraged change. At the very least, they hope that the project helps to begin a discussion surrounding the diversity of discrimination.
“Making a difference for us, in the short term, is really about highlighting the stereotypes and micro-aggressions that are still faced by society,” Paula told HelloGiggles. “We’re so often told that many social problems are disappearing — homophobia, racism, sexism, victim-blaming — but our subjects and both myself and Harriet are still facing problems like these on a daily basis.”
“For us, if this project changes even one person’s mind about the preconceived notions they might be holding, or inspires someone to ask more questions, or even for someone to feel more confident in themselves and think, ‘hey, there’s someone else who goes through this too, I’m not alone,’ then we would be extremely happy,” she continued.
We think they’ve succeeded. Check out a few of the images below, and more over on their Facebook. The project is ongoing, and for anyone interested in getting involved, you can reach out to Harriet and Paula via Facebook, Twitter, and email.
(All images courtesy of the “I’m Tired” project.)