On Feb. 17, 2013, Sarah Brooke Lyons took a photo of chef and filmmaker Kevin Cacy, the first in a series of 1,005 photos. In less than a year, she completed the 1005 Faces Project in time for January's DreamWeek 2014, the 12 day, city-wide summit aimed at advancing and modernizing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of equality and justice.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling ... I’m relieved to be done with the legwork of editing and scheduling, but I’ve met great people and heard amazing stories. It’s sad to see it wrapped up,” Lyons said.
While photographing various events an people during the inaugural DreamWeek in 2013, Lyons was inspired to capture the diversity of San Antonio and showcase the energy and potential of the city, for the city.
"I want to bring together the innovators, creatives, and any other awesome people in our city to celebrate and explore the future of San Antonio," Lyons said in an interview on the Rivard Report in March 2013. "Away from the stereotypes of River Walk and margaritas."
Not only did Lyons complete her goal by her chosen deadline, she met citizens from various cultural and monetary backgrounds that brought about emotional and lighthearted discoveries within our city. The goal of the project was to showcase all aspects of San Antonio: from downtown dwellers to famous Spurs, Lyons succeeded in providing a large scope of the city that showcased 1,005 distinct faces in a city of about 1.5 million people.
She started her photo collection in a make-shift studio at home and at small social get-togethers, but as word got out, businesses and organizations began partnering with Lyons to host photo shoots all over San Antonio including Whole Foods, The Richter Co., The Friendly Spot, Local Coffee, Center City Development Office, Cresta Bella, Awesome SA and more.
"The idea was to partner up with locations in San Antonio that are doing great things, and we should be proud of as a city," she said. "I hope some people discovered cool places in San Antonio they may not have otherwise known about."
“I was elated. It was a wonderful feeling to see it end. There was never any stress attached to the project: just pure joy,” Lyons said.
Lyons captured quite a few well-known San Antonians during her final leg of the project including San Antonio's First Lady Erica Castro, pastor Max Lucado and Spurs' Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
“I had a lot of fun surprises along the way too, like Poet Lauriet Carmen Tafolla. There were so many wonderful San Antonians that are not as well known but their impact on the city has been incredible. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to check off a few people on the list, but in the end it all happened exactly as it should have.”
Lyons has become a bit of a local celebrity herself in the process. Since her media debut in the Rivard Report, she's been interviewed – or at least mentioned – more than a dozen times by local and national media.
"Initially it was a little intimidating to present myself for the media. It made me really self critical, and there's been some difficult self assessments that I wasn't expecting. However, I learned that as long as I don't watch or read more than once, then I can move on quickly with some opportunities to grow," Lyons said. "With that perspective it's actually become incredibly fun, and really flattering to have the opportunity to share my story ... No one has stopped me on the street for a photo, but when that happens then I will have reached celebrity status."
Beyond a few of the famous San Antonio faces, Lyons met many more people who captivated her heart.
“There was one woman in particular who wrote ‘Just love’. She told me a story of the tragic death of her daughter and granddaughter. Though her story was so heart wrenching, there was hope, and the thought that you just have to love," she said. "Many people also saw the project as self-reflection, and gained a stronger sense of identity afterwards. There were many highs and lows from what people (wrote) on their sign."
The project presented few challenges, she said, until the last week.
“I still had about 100 photos to take. It became a mad scramble to include 100 people. There were so many e-mails and phone calls that last week. If I could do anything differently, I would have a team to help me coordinate photo shoots."
Although the project has come to a bittersweet end, Lyons has plans to keep the project alive.
“The goal is to find other locations in San Antonio that would like to feature the project. I’m planning on filling out a exhibit proposal for The Institute of Texan Cultures, I think that would be great home for it. The prints from the show are also available at the Southwest School of Art. However, I’m really wanting to do more public art murals with it," she said. Much like the installation in Southtown, funded by Lyon's successful application for an Awesome SA grant in June 2013. "I’m looking for (more) outdoor spaces that I can do short term installations with.”
Lyons is pleased with the project as a whole and hopes to see it live on – perhaps at San Antonio’s airport and maybe even a book. “I think it turned out wonderfully, and exactly how it should have been. It really came to fruition the way I had hoped. I really wanted this to be a reflection of our city, to showcase diversity, and to bring people together.”
Beyond The 1005 Faces Project, Lyons has ambitions to continue charity work through her lens. Through auctioning off the photos from DreamWeek, Lyons raised over $4,000, and participated in a blanket drive for Haven for Hope.
She has plans to return to her work abroad soon as well.
“I would like my life to be based in charity work. I’m looking into returning to Brazil to focus on these boys who are hip-hop dancers in the favelas. There’s a class system that is so ingrained, and they don’t feel they can move any further," she said. "I want to showcase these hip-hop dancers, and show people in America what they can do. I want to give them hope beyond their class.”
Lyons also has plans to return to Burkina Faso to educate young women on sexual education and infants in crisis.
For Lyons, photography is a main medium for her to not only see the world, but to provide a new perspective and voice.
“I think my purpose and fit in this world is to let people look their best. Whether it be an underserved population that needs to be noticed, or maybe just giving somebody an ego boost from a great photo or telling an individual story of heartache and hope. My dream would be to bring communities together through photography. I’m pushing to create my own (nonprofit). I have lots of great ideas on how I can give a voice to those who typically don’t have a platform.”
Jackie Calvert is a freelance writer and recent graduate of The University of Texas at San Antonio. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MademoiselleJC.