First Person Projects



Unseen Eastside High School represents a group of high school students in a community where the challenges of young adulthood are met with assumptions about differences and similarities – not unlike that in the broader society. Taking photographs and sharing their own personal stories through this project gave the students at Eastside the opportunity to say, "You see me as one thing, but I am much more than meets the eye." The photographs represent a small sampling of students’ portrayals of themselves. 


Islam on campus

As a response to the Islamophobia following the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, UnseenAmerica facilitated photography classes with Muslim students at the University of Florida, giving them an opportunity to express themselves in ways that differed greatly from the stereotypical narrative that was being played out in most media outlets. Classes culminated in a traveling exhibit, which included venues such as the Gainesville Public Library, University of Florida Reitz Union, United Church of Gainesville, and local restaurants.  The National Endowment for the Arts sponsored this exhibit. 


Portrait Projects


voices of gainesville - portraits by charlotte kesl

Racial inequity is a long-standing issue in many communities across the United States, affecting the opportunities of minority individuals and families. In 2018, the “Understanding Racial Disparities in Alachua County” report was published detailing the disparities in employment, criminal justice, education, housing and poverty in Alachua County. The project, led by the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) in collaboration with the University of Florida Program for Resource Efficient Communities (PREC) aimed to understand and document racial inequity and develop “a baseline report grounded in quantitative findings to document and provide insights about the extent, nature, and source of racial inequality in Alachua County.”

In the fall of 2018 Self Narrate, in partnership with the Alachua County NAACP chapter and United Church of Gainesville’s Racial Task Force, hosted a three-part storytelling event at The Hippodrome. Through storytelling, the series aimed to give a face and a voice to the statistics of those most affected by these disparities. Community leaders also spoke of challenges faced in addressing systemic racism related to transportation and housing, criminal justice and education.

These portraits are the people who shared their stories.



The UnseenJax exhibit resulted from the collaboration between the Jacksonville, Florida Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program, volunteer professional photographers, and UnseenAmerica.  Due to time and language restraints, portraits of recently arrived refugees to the U.S. were taken by professional photographers, as opposed to the usual first person narrative and images of the lives and imagination of participants.  Short captions were derived from six different translators, and twenty people from various corners of the world participated, including from Afghanistan, Cuba, Haiti, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. The exhibit’s opening was at the Jacksonville Public Library, and has traveled to many other venues within Jacksonville since opening last Spring.