Walk or drive around downtown New Haven and you can’t miss them: large-scale banners on the sides of buildings, in windows and on vacant storefronts featuring compelling photos of city youth.
Commercial photographer Rob Goldman said he created the IMatter project to give teens and young adults a face and voice, and pry open important conversations about young people’s lives today, especially those growing up in challenging neighborhoods. Subjects volunteered to be photographed. Each image is accompanied by a personal statement, and is linked to a website where you can hear them speak.
During a recent walking tour, Goldman offered some of the backstories.
"Ben had a terminal brain tumor. He is no longer with us," said Goldman. "At the time I photographed Ben, he was undergoing radiation treatment and had lost his hair. And his mom came to the shoot and was prepared with a hoodie and with a hat -- and with a choice of hats, and Ben just said, 'No. This is the way I want to be seen."
Goldman also spoke about a woman named Elaine, who he photographed for this project.
“Her statement says ‘Your validation does not define me.’ How many adults could articulate that? And yet Elaine, who comes from a tough place, tough life -- her response to her challenges is regardless of what I’ve been through, I still feel strong and I still feel noble and I’m going to let the whole world know that I’m here to stay,” he said.
Outside, street vendor Leamond Suggs was near one of the banners. “People are moved by it," he said. "It's a good look for minority kids...to have a positive image of themselves. Because, unfortunately in this society, the images that are being reinforced are not necessarily positive. So for them to see a poster of themselves or someone they know from high school, it's a beautiful thing.”