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February 25th, 2010

It’s Personal: The Baileys’ Faces 4 Reform

Posted by liveBooks

Every month on RESOLVE we ask a photographer to share a personal project they’re currently working on. We’re doubly happy to highlight Faces 4 Reform from Robert and Robbie Bailey, since it addresses a pressing issue for all Americans — the rising number of uninsured — and because the website liveBooks donated has helped bring extra attention to the project.

From the Faces 4 Reform project. ©Robert & Robbie Bailey

Name: Robert & Robbie Bailey
Age: 42  & 41
Location: New York
Kind of photography we specialize in: Portraiture

Personal project name and short description: Faces4Reform – Portraits of America’s Uninsured. According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, there were 46.3 million people living in the United State without health insurance.  This series of portraits gives you a close look at some of their faces.

When and why did you start it?
Towards the end of the summer, we began to pay close attention to the debate over health insurance reform.  As small business owners, we personally understand the plight of the uninsured.  For years, we worked 80 hour weeks but were still unable to afford the high premiums unfairly imposed on the self-employed.  We opted for a reasonable state subsidized insurance plan but that has increased by 65% in the last three years.  If something doesn’t change, we could be uninsured again in the very near future.

Aside from our own personal motivation, we felt compelled to respond to the misconceptions about the uninsured.  There are those that would like for you to believe that the majority are illegal immigrants or welfare recipients. In contrast, many of the uninsured people that we know are productive, hardworking individuals and families that are simply locked out of a broken system.

Sadly, political lines have been drawn, the spin-masters are hard at work, and the American public is once again at the mercy of entertainment journalism and those that specialize in misinformation. When that happens, those most affected get lost in the discussion and politics takes precedence over people. This series of portraits hopes to humanize the ongoing debate and encourage participation in the political process. As artists and small business owners, we obviously don’t have the money or influence to affect polices in Washington but we do possess a creative power that can be used to inform and inspire.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
The power in this particular body of work lies in seeing the images as a collective.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Finding the time to do it.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
The most rewarding thing about this project has been the response from the creative community. Several of our fellow photographers donated their studio space and equipment. Art director friends helped us create a logo and offered ongoing design advice. Jon Lucich, the representative for our commercial site, presented the idea to liveBooks and helped us secure the Face4Reform website.  And, most importantly, the many uninsured individuals who generously contributed their time and bravely posed for portraits. Their faces and their stories have affected us more than they could ever know.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
Realistically, since this is a no-budget personal project, we are currently relying on word of mouth, grassroots marketing.  Since it is hot topic and a timely subject, we think it would be appropriate for various forms of media.  Of course, we’d love to have it printed in the New York Times Magazine, or other respected publications but it would also be relevant as part of a health insurance reform segment on radio or television.  We are also planning an upcoming gallery exhibition.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
As professional photographers, personal projects are good for your soul.  The commercial work can be financially rewarding and creatively stimulating but they often lack substance.  Although the process can be exhausting, personal projects help to remind us of who we are and why we became photographers in the first place.

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