For the past six months, we’ve been following the adventures of Wesley Verhoeve, the writer and photographer behind One of Many—a site that chronicles creative communities in American cities. Each month Verhoeve releases a portrait series, accompanied by in-depth storytelling, that sheds light on a particular location and the individuals working there. The creatives range from designers and woodworkers to chefs, engineers and beyond. It is a documentation of creativity in the boldest, broadest sense, and the goal is to inspire and encourage others.
Today, Verhoeve releases his latest installment, and this time the focus is the city of New Orleans. There, he met with a coppersmith, writers, a specialty coffee shop owner, a graphic designer and others. His glimpses into their lives offer an instance of recognition, mission and value. And united, they reflect the makers of a city as a whole. His words carry insight and weight, composing a solid long-format read. We spoke with Verhoeve to further our understanding of One of Many and where he plans on taking it.
How did you determine the 12 cities you would explore and chronicle?
A few cities were basically a given, considering what I wanted ‘One of Many’ to be about. I set out to explore the movement of creatives being increasingly interested in life and work outside of the big three cities—LA, NYC, SF—so obvious choices included Austin, Portland and Seattle.
The rest came from a weighed decision based on a few practical things, and some creative ones. Geographically speaking, I wanted to make sure to cover as many regions as possible. Mobility-wise, they had to be cities where I could get around mostly on foot, which as a New Yorker means shoots had to at most be a 45-minute walk from the previous one. Selfishly, I also mostly chose cities I’d never been to before, and ones I wanted to eat in. Charleston is a great example of the latter.
How do you find the people you initially plan to document?
I usually know one or two people in each city, who likely play some sort of role in the local creative community. I also volunteer for Creative Mornings in New York, and have access to local chapter hosts in many of the cities I end up visiting. Between those people I can usually count on a great number of recommendations of people to investigate. Once I do that, I end up writing to a selection of these people, asking if they’d be available to meet up, and often times those people will send some additional recommendations as well.
How has the series developed now that you (and your readers) are halfway through?
I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at finding and telling these inspiring and interesting stories. Having published multiple photo essays has also made it easier to explain why exactly I am in their town exploring their creative community, and at this point I have quite a few emails full of recommendations of people to check out.
What do you seek from a creative community? What moves you and compels you?
I don’t go in with a whole lot of expectations. I seek genuine stories that inspire myself and others to make positive changes. I follow the Marc Maron school of thought, where I don’t do an overwhelming amount of research before I get to a city. I end up meeting up with roughly 30-35 creatives in each city, and about two-thirds of those are set up in advance. The rest of the time I leave open for serendipity. I might walk past a painter’s studio on my way to a next shoot, and make a quick stop to chat and take a photo. Maybe I’ll meet someone at a coffee shop in Detroit and they’ll take me to their house to eat homemade gumbo with their New Orleanian family. (That actually happened!)
What moves me is kindness and generosity. What compels me is earnestness. People have been incredibly generous with their time and their stories. Both with me, and within their communities.
Images by Wesley Verhoeve