Behind The Lens

Decatur resident Beate Sass created the "I am Decatur" photo project to celebrate the city’s diversity.

Creator of Decatur photo project discusses diversity

Beate Sass, who moved from Tallahassee to DeKalb County in 2011, said Decatur is the first place she’s lived that feels like home.

 Sass said she wanted to do something that truly depicted the essence of her “home”—lively, diverse and full of stories to tell.

 That’s how the photo essay project “I am Decatur” got started. The project was displayed at events throughout the city in hopes of bringing the discussion of diversity to the forefront.

 “Last year during the presidential campaign, I was disturbed by the level of intolerance and I really wanted to do something,” Sass said. “I wanted to create a photo essays because we do have diversity in the city and we thrive on diversity. I was hoping if other people could get to know their neighbors from diverse backgrounds that would inspire them to have meaningful conversations and come to appreciate their differences.”

 The photo essay made its debut at the Welcome Week Decatur reception Sept. 15. During the event, immigrants shared stories of what they think it means to be a Decatur resident.

 On Sept. 24 at the Beacon Municipal Center’s Ebster Gym, the photo project was displayed again for the We Are Decatur event. The event was created to bring people of diverse backgrounds together, according to city officials.

ninetta violante

 As Sass worked throughout different areas of Atlanta as a photographer, she said she noticed many events tended to be segregated.

 “At first I thought, ‘We’re still really segregated,’ but we tend to gravitate to people who are like us,” Sass said. “We tend to feel most comfortable when surrounded by others with whom we share commonalities. Although this is natural, we risk the opportunity to enrich our lives by acquainting ourselves with others who have differing opinions, beliefs, customs, and narratives.”

 Sass said prior to starting the project, her circle of friends was not very diverse. Most of her associates were White and middle-aged. She said one of the most rewarding experiences of the I am Decatur photo project was talking to a diverse group of people daily.

 Currently, Sass has completed 26 stories and plans to do several more. She said she will post the stories periodically to the website, iamdecatur.com.

 Some of the people spotlighted in Sass’ photo project include, City Schools of Decatur School Resource Officer Matthew Damico, Decatur Fire Department Support Service Captain Ninetta Violante and former NFL player and Decatur resident Clarence Scott.

 Sass said she enjoyed partnering with the city of Decatur, the Decatur Education Foundation, the Decatur Arts Alliance and the Better Together Advisory Board.

 “This is such a wonderful experience,” Sass said. “This project is a celebration of our differences and shared humanity. We are more alike than we are different.”

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