Brooklyn-based photographer, writer, and all-around creative guy Wesley Verhoeve has been utilizing his passion for finding and sharing beautiful things—and the people that create them—in his ongoing series “One of Many,” which profiles a vast array of people in different urban areas one city at a time. Learn more about Wesley and get a sneak peek at his upcoming project profiling a few subjects from the bursting creative center that is Detroit.
Photos by Wesley Verhoeve
Above photo by Tyler Phenes
Could you give us a little more background on yourself? Where you’re from, what growing up was like, what you do, etc.
I grew up with a photographer father and a teacher mother in a small rural town. As a child, I'd spend time in the dark room and going on photo trips with my dad. On weekends it would be art galleries and museums with the whole family. Once I entered middle school, music became my preferred art form and I did a deep dive into that world in lieu of photography. I didn’t really get back to photography until I got my first iPhone. In the period in between, music was everything, and I ended up working in that industry in various capacities.
If you weren’t always from Brooklyn, what brought you there?
It was actually music that brought me to Brooklyn, about 13 years ago. I came to the city to intern for Verve Records/Universal Music Group. Later, I moved to Sony and started my own concert series, an artist management firm, and record label. I was fully focused on these for about 10 years. As we all know, the music business evolved, as did my interests. iPhone photography and a photographer friend came back around, as did writing, and it started growing into a bigger part of my day. In the end, the investigative talent scouting part of running a music company actually has a lot of overlap with being a traveling photographer/writer seeking out talented people with inspiring stories.
Can you tell us more about your series One of Many?
One of Many is a project for which I traveled to twelve different smaller cities across the US to capture their creative communities in portrait and writing. These are secondary cities where it’s still more of an option to pursue a sustainable creative career than it would be in the increasingly expensive perceived centers of culture like NYC, SF, and to a lesser degree LA. I spend a little over a week in each city, and meet with about 35 independent creatives of many different kinds. It can range from a chef, to a woodworker, writer, fashion designer, illustrator, and many more. I turn each trip into a long-form photo essay, one per city, and I’m about to publish the 7th about the creative community of Seattle.
Above photo by Patrick Michael Chin
How do you choose the specific cities you share? And how do you meet / discover the creatives you profile?
I tried to cover as many regions as possible within the twelve city limit, which was mostly imposed through financial restrictions. There’s many more amazing cities I could’ve gone to, but I chose twelve to focus on for this first season of One of Many. Aside from trying to cover certain regions, I also looked at where I knew there to be vibrant creative communities, where I might have contacts, and which cities were doable when moving mostly on foot.
In your opinion, what kind of aspects or characteristics does a bustling creative city usually have to make it that way?
It greatly differs between cities. Some cities like Detroit have a grit and perseverance against all odds, whereas others like Salt Lake City have a fascinating social make-up that inspires creative tension. Others like New Orleans, or even Nashville, have a long-standing history of creating art and stories. One thing I did see across cities was when there are enthusiastic and giving organizers that bring people together through events or collaborations, the level is almost instantly raised across the board.
What’s been your favorite city of creatives to profile so far?
That would be Charleston, SC. I’ve enjoyed every city I was able to visit tremendously, but Charleston really stole my heart, in various ways. The food is incredible, the creative community is inspiring, it’s beautiful and historic, and there is a certain generosity that is infectious.
Do you sense a rise within any specific type of creative endeavor?
Anecdotally, I’m seeing a growing interest in being a more independent creative, whether that means being a freelancer, a small business owner, or working for a smaller company where a bigger impact can be made. Simultaneously, and it seems to certainly be related, I am seeing an increased interest in living outside of cities like NYC, SF or LA, in favor of smaller cities with a lower cost of living. I think that in part this has to do with a post-recession realization that stable big company jobs really aren’t that stable anymore, and in part with a greater focus on quality of life. The fact that distribution, communication, and discovery has changed through the Internet also supports this movement. You don’t necessarily have to live in NYC anymore to be written up by press, or get face time with bigger clients.
What does creativity mean to you?
Being creative to me means trying to find a new perspective on a problem, and solving it in an elegant way. And that can be a piece of art addressing something personal and emotional like heartbreak, or even a piece of medical engineering that addresses an actual heart attack. Looking at things in a new light, and then actually doing something with this insight that contributes to a solution.
You seem to be a super busy guy always working on one project or another. How do you find the time to do everything?
I try to stay organized and spend a good amount of time planning things. Every Sunday morning I review my week and plan out my next one. It also helps to have a very uneven work-life balance, though I hear that’s not great in the long run, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it for others. That being said, I certainly struggle with periods where I feel overwhelmed or like I’m behind or otherwise falling short on the promises I make myself. Having a group of supportive friends and accountability partners evens that out nicely. You can’t do it alone. Being surrounded by others who work hard and create things I admire motivates me to try to get on par with them in my output.
On that note, what are some things you feel you MUST do on a day-to-day basis to keep your busy life feeling manageable? Are there things you consume or participate in, activities you perform, coffee shops you go to, etc?
I try to consume less and less, and most days I fail miserably because I love Twitter and there’s so much to learn in the world. At the same time, Twitter also exposes me to many talented friends or heroes all over the world, giving me context for what I do and helping me strive to be better. For media, I subscribe to the GIGO principle (garbage in, garbage out), and try to take that into account when deciding what to read/watch/etc.
As far as things go that I feel I must do, I’d say it’s mostly sticking to my morning and evening routines. I find that routines and systems are a much better way for me to stick with something than trying to rely on self-discipline and will power alone. For me, it’s about showing up, being clear about what I’m trying to accomplish, and doing the work.
Check out a small snippet below of Wesley's One of Many project, and head over to the website to read up on the rest of the Detroit creatives (and every other city he has profiled so far.)
Jack Cheng is a Shanghai-born writer who was raised in the Michigan he returned to last year after a substantial stint in Brooklyn. His path to becoming a writer has been long and winding one, including a period heading up his own design agency, running a tea startup, and various other roles. He published his first novel “These Days”, through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and is currently working on his second.
Daisuke Hughes and his wife Jessica Hicks opened Astro Coffee on the famed Corktown block that also features the well-known early bird Slow’s Bar BQ. It was inspiring to see this husband and wife team operate as one. Jessica cooks all the amazing food offerings, while Daisuke focuses on the coffee program. He was trained at Monmouth Coffee Company, the premiere coffee house in England, and in a previously life also worked at the iconic Zingerman’s Deli. After a stint in Jessica’s homeland of Australia, the two moved to Detroit to be part of the new movement to get this fine city closer to it’s glory days.