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'You're a valuable person': Capturing America's melting pot, one photo at a time, in downtown Denver

Posted at 1:55 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 22:30:19-04

DENVER — America is a melting pot, built on diversity. The 16th Street Mall is a great place to see that in Denver. It’s also a favorite spot for photographer Andy Lurie.

Lurie is the creator of the American Quilt Project. A digital quilt of faces on his Instagram page. For the past four years he’s gone all over taking pictures of strangers.

“I felt a lot of divisiveness in the air,” Lurie said. “I wanted to do something to counteract that. So I decided to make a virtual quilt of humanity on Instagram to highlight the diversity of America.”

A quick search for @theamericanquilt on Instagram and you can see just how diverse Colorado is. Of the over 3,700 pictures you can find faces young and old, all races, all genders.

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“The reactions are always really positive because I’m essentially telling people I value you,” Lurie said. “You’re a valuable person and they seem to be honored that I want to take their picture.”

Of the nearly dozen people we talked to on this day, the majority said yes. It wasn’t always that easy though. There was a time when Lurie wasn’t taking any pictures.

“For a couple of months I stopped when the pandemic hit. I decided that was probably the end of my project,” Lurie said. “I guess with everybody wearing masks, people want to see other people’s faces and this is exactly what the American Quilt is.”

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The process is simple. Lurie introduces himself and explains what he’s doing. By then he has them hooked, usually. Then, “can I take your picture?”

If they agree, which most do, the majority take their mask off, without Lurie even having to ask. That’s the beauty of the project. We’re all different, unique, and nothing shows that more than our faces.

“There’s even more of a need to do this right now,” Lurie said. “With all of the negativity that’s going on people want to be part of something positive.”

With the click of a button, Lurie can make people smile. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make their day.

As for Lurie? He’s doing what he loves with no end in sight.

“I just love to take pictures and I don’t see it stopping," he said. "I see this growing and growing, maybe 10,000 pictures someday."

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