I moved to Doylestown 13 years ago. At the time, all I really knew about the town was that it looked quaint. It looked like a small town you might see in a travel magazine. Or a Norman Rockwell painting. It looked, well, it looked like a town that would be a great place to raise a family.
And it was. It is.
Over the past decade, I’ve come to realize that what drew me to Doylestown wasn’t what I saw on its surface. It was the people. It was the humans from different walks of life, those who were born here and those who moved here from someplace far away. That’s what made Doylestown special.
People like Officer Dave Carlen, who graduated from one of the local high schools, spent two decades serving his country in the Navy, returned to serve his community and is fighting thyroid and multiple myeloma cancer. Many of the children in the area know him as the D.A.R.E. officer who speaks to them in school.
People like Chanin Milnazik, an incredible marketer who founded The Women’s Business Forum of Bucks County, First Friday Doylestown, and the ‘Doylestown BluBall’, showing how one person has the power to help many others.
People like Ron Strouse, a lifelong resident of Doylestown and the first openly gay mayor elected in the state of Pennsylvania.
“I’m frequently asked how Doylestown has come to be so unique and extraordinary. In part, it’s our long history, our architecture, our cultural institutions, our business community that is focused on small and independent. Of course, what really makes a difference are the incredible people who live here, work here, and visit our town.” – Mayor Ron Strouse
And people like Mike Markowitz, owner of a popular barbecue restaurant in the center of town called Hickory Kitchen. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Mike and his team over the past couple of years. They, like Dave, Chanin and Ron, are part of the human fabric that makes Doylestown Doylestown. Mike gets what it means to be part of a community. He’s an enthusiastic supporter of local artists, turning the fire orange walls of his restaurant into a rotating gallery of photographs and paintings. My images have adorned the Hickory Kitchen walls twice.
A few months back, Mike and I were talking over a beer and he casually asked if I’d want to show my work for a longer period of time, a sort of artist in barbecue residence. Those who know me, know I never say no to new opportunities. I said, yes, but with a catch: rather than rotate out photographs from my portfolio, why don’t we create a series of images that reflect the people of our town?
And that, my friends, is how “This is Our Town” began. It’s an ongoing series of portraits that reflect and tell the stories of the individuals that make up our community. It draws on inspiration from storytelling projects like “Humans of New York” and Peter Adams’ “Faces of Open Source,” as well as visual inspiration from photographers like Platon and Seliger. My hope is that other photographers take this project, find their own Mike Markowitz, and create art to celebrate their own communities.
If you visit Doylestown, I encourage you to visit Hickory Kitchen and get to know the faces of this town I call home.