The Creators of “This Is Milwaukee” Talk About How the Pandemic Changed Their Project

“If this isn’t democracy, I don’t know what is.”


Photographer Kevin Miyazaki and journalist Mary Louise Schumacher joined Milwaukee Magazine Publisher and Editor Carole Nicksin for a livestream lunch Monday.

Miyazaki and Schumacher discussed “This is Milwaukee,” their collaborative photography and audio project that explores democracy and citizenship in Milwaukee.

The project includes portraits of almost 100 Milwaukeeans and recordings of each portrait subject talking about what democracy means to them. Schumacher said the project began just over a year ago and was inspired by the announcement that the Democratic National Convention would be held in Milwaukee. The project is nonpartisan, and it aims to capture a wide range of perspectives on democracy.

“What we hear are a range of emotions, including concern and fear about democracy being at risk, about democracy being something that you have to fight for,” Schumacher said.

Miyazaki said that the audio component of the project pairs well with the simplicity of the portraits.

“When you hear somebody’s voice paired with this very straightforward and simple picture of somebody’s likeness, it’s very personal,” Miyazaki said.

He also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has slightly altered the trajectory of the project.

“In some ways it opens up all kinds of new stories in a time when we thought we’d be wrapping things up,” Miyazaki said. “If this isn’t democracy, I don’t know what is.”

Prior to the pandemic, Schumacher said they were planning an outdoor display of the project, as well as newspaper-style publications in various locations throughout the city. They are still exploring the possibility of making this display safely accessible during the pandemic.

The pandemic also led to the creation of “This is Milwaukee Talking,” a series of virtual conversations between some of the portrait subjects. The series is organized by Adam Carr, who is featured in the project, and it invites portrait subjects to revisit the questions they answered in the audio interviews. The third event of the series is at 7 p.m. Monday, and a link to the Zoom meeting is available on the “This is Milwaukee” Facebook page.



Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.