Fascinating Portrait Project Explores Our Shared Genetic Past

“The Sum of the Some of Us” is a fascinating portrait photography project that seeks to change the way we look at cultural identity and genetic lineage.

If you’re 100% sure of your heritage, ethnicity, race, nationality, or whatever else you think makes you distinctly you, taking a DNA journey might surprise you. Who could forget that eye-opening short commercial film celebrating the (often surprising) ancestry of 67 people randomly chosen from all over the world? Well, this portrait project beautifully called The Sum of the Some of Us that is currently being funded on Kickstarter is another one like it, with the same goal of exploring, revealing, and celebrating the bits of our ancestry that we probably aren’t aware of.

“Beyond your block, neighborhood, country—and even within your genetic code—there is a fascinating story,” said Brooklyn McTavish, a photographic social psychologist behind The Sum of the Some of Us. Captivated by the endless possibilities of exploring the concept of ethnic diversity through DNA, he combines multiple disciplines like photography, social psychology, and DNA research to weave a visual story of his subjects’ distant past.

Previously, he has interviewed and photographed 10 people for the project, and we hope to continue with 20 more subjects. So, he has turned to Kickstarter to fund this undertaking, with the goal of creating 90 portraits, as well as an interactive exhibition that “educates people on what it means to be culturally diverse.” The exhibit is planned for Fall 2020 in New York City. In the Kickstarter campaign, McTavish outlined the process involved in the portrait project. At the heart of this are the steps of DNA Sampling & Cultural Selection, and the Research for the period and culture that matches the chosen ethnic type. These form the basis for the next step, The Portrait Experience, which transforms the subjects into the spirit of their ancestors and immortalized in a stunning portrait.

The campaign has outlined several rewards that include limited edition prints and a companion book, But if you also want to get an ancestry portrait session, there are two pledges at $2500 and $3500 or more, which will let you have the full experience and some 13″ x 19″ fine art prints of your session. Does this sound like a project you’d like to support? The Sum of the Some of Us still has a long way to go and 15 days left to get funded as of writing. Go ahead and check out the Kickstarter campaign page to find out more and pledge your support.


Photos from the Kickstarter campaign by Brooklyn McTavish