Welcome to the Facing Ourselves Project

The genesis of Facing Ourselves was forged on the frontlines of the recent wave of Northern African, Western Asian, and the Middle Eastern refugees that crashed upon the shores of Western Europe. While other documentarians focused on the dramatic and politically charged journeys, Patricia Houghton Clarke quietly turned her camera upon the refugees themselves as they assimilated into new communities and cultures.

The portraits gently remind us that regardless of their respective histories and legacies, the subjects share the same hopes and desires, love and empathy, and wishes and dreams as we do. That they are not strangers we are coming face to face with, but rather, friends and neighbors and that we are ultimately facing ourselves.

Now, Facing Ourselves is an on-going collection of community projects that confronts the challenges, misunderstanding, and stigma and accompanies forced migration around the world. The goal is to drive the conversation of merging cultures to create compassionate communities.

  1. The Portraits

Through the portraits of Facing Ourselves, audiences focus on living in and creating humane and diverse communities, seeing themselves in the “other.” To date, the Project has expanded to include communities in the United States and Europe and hopes to expand further. Subjects include residents and recent arrivals whose countries of origin include: Cameroon, Canada, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

See the first portrait project →

2. The Installation


In 2017 a small group of Santa Barbara California volunteers raised funds to exhibit the first series of portraits in Martignano, Italy in 2018. Locals saw themselves in a visually impactful manner, engendering a sense of pride for their efforts in integrating their community. The large-scale exhibition culminated in a “community conversation” in the 15th c. palazzo. Residents of all ages and ethnicities gathered to discuss what it means to create a happy, healthy, and functional community.

Explore the first installation in Martignano, Italy →

3. Community Projects

As Facing Ourselves develops over time and place, more and more people are finding ways to express their feelings about creating compassionate communities. See a sampling of community events that have occurred or are scheduled to be a part of the Facing Ourselves Project.

See all the community projects →