White Plains Schools and Common Circles Fight the Tyranny of First Impressions

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Bayete’ Ross Smith photographs State Senator Shelley Mayer for “We are White Plains: Bridging, Belonging and Building Community” a photographic exhibit featuring 36 White Plains Schools and prominent citizens in White Plains to help White Plains students and the community explore identity via a traveling museum. It will be showcased in the halls of White Plains High School in March.
JOE BOYKIN, White Plains High School personality posing for a series of photographs of him in different clothing and styles


My father once told me in discussing job intervews, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”

I learned that again Friday at a photo shoot involving 36 persons from the White Plains High School and Middle School, including Mayor Tom Roach Council President Justin Brasch and State Senator Shelley Meyer.

Staff administrators from the White Plains School District, members of the police and fire department, the mayor, the state senator, and other dignitaries, along with other well-known individuals working in the White Plains participated.

The  non-profit Common Cause conducted an all-day photography shoot at the high school Friday, capturing 36  school employees in a variety of clothing of their choice.

Each participant was photographed in a variety of outfits of their choosing as part of a planned traveling museum “pilot” program. The program is being used to demonstrate to those looking at 10 different pictures of the same person, instinctively make a snap judgment what the person is as to character, safety, respect, attraction.

The program is named:

“We are White Plains: Bridging, Belonging and Building Community.”

It is scheduled to be unveiled in the halls of White Plains High School March 2023.

Photographer Bayete’ Ross Smith composed the compositions in the all day session.

Beyete’ Ross Smith talks about how he got the idea for the identity demonstration. (Click white arrow > on left to start the interview)

He shot 10 portraits of each  of the 36 participants photographing them in ten distinctly different fashion presentations chosen by the subject who posed with  a blank expression in each outfit.

Sue Spiegel, left, and Marla Felton of Common Circles, creators of “We Are White Plains,” talk about plans for the exhibition. (Click white arrow > at the left to hear the interview)

The blank countenance you encounter  when looking at the  10 photographs of each person, you were not swayed by a smile, a scowl, or grimace or a laugh, forcing you as an individual to discover that seeing the same person in a different outfit, you make a different judgment.

Sue Spiegel and Marla Felton of the non-profit, Common Circles, Inc. are using the arts, conversation, interactives and storytelling to help students in the White Plains School District and the broader White Plains community explore identity.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca organized the program with Common Circles

The dynamic revelation was conceived by Mr. Ross Smith as part of his “Our Kind of People” series. “Our Kind of People” examines how perception about someone’s identity, value and character is affected by appearance such as clothing.

Joe Boyin observes why he wanted to pose for the exhibition.

The finished exhibition scheduled to appear at the High School in March consists of photos of each of the participants in 10 different outfits, such as this photo below. on Mr. Ross Smith’s website.

When I observed this Mr. Ross for the first time, I realized how right my father was about not getting a second chance to make a first impression.

This one person wearing 5 different outfits. I think the photo of one person with 5 different looks explains why we should not make judgments based on appearance.

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