We Are Nashville tells stories of people in city through art gallery, films, podcast

We Are Nashville
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 21:23:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A photojournalist new to Nashville has the philosophy: no matter a person's background, they so often want to tell their story. He found that was exceptionally true in his latest project. A new initiative giving us a glimpse into the people of Nashville.

"This group of girls, they are my sister-in-law's friends," said Nazar Sharanshi.

It's quite something for Nazar to walk into an art gallery and see faces he knows portrayed in the photography.

"This one's Kurdish," he said, looking at a wall of pictures. "All three of these are Kurdish."

With the Kurdish community always growing in Nashville and opening businesses, Nazar works to help people navigate their immigration status and find employment.

"We are all Nashvillian," he said. "We are Kurdish. We see ourselves as Nashvillian. We don't see ourselves as outsiders."

That's why it matters to him to see familiar faces in an event called We Are Nashville, now on display at Chauvet Arts downtown.

"It's become a story about how small Nashville is," said photojournalist Philip Holsinger, the man behind the pictures.

In telling the stories of the people of a city, there was a challenge.

"I had no idea where to start," Philip laughed.

Philip moved into a place in the Preston Taylor neighborhood, just getting to know people of all walks of life.

"One of the things that happens with me is I collect friends," he said. "Let's go with my friend Eric. He's a former head of the Gangster Disciples, and we're friends now. He was actually helping kids get off the street and not be in gangs. He hated what happened to him as a kid, and he doesn't want other people to become like that."

"Clare Armistead, who is a 93-year-old socialite, she's my good friend Clare," Philip continued. "Andre Prince of Prince's Hot Chicken has adopted me into their family."

We Are Nashville also includes a series of films and podcasts and a lot more. Philip said it's a work of journalism with a specific goal.

"Encourage people to know their neighbors," said Philip. "When people meet somebody out of their silo, they're so so surprised somebody is like them. Even though they don't look like them, have different cultures, people really are far more alike than different."

If seeing friends in this exhibit is quite something for Nazar, then it's certainly something to see himself in it.

"We are Nashvillians," he said. "This is home for us."

"This process has made me a far different kind of journalist," said Philip. "I feel like I've found a home in people here."

We Are Nashville is at Chauvet Arts through the end of July. Philip said the pictures will be sold with money used to finance the telling of more Nashville stories. For more on We Are Nashville, visit here.