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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces #96 - Not mine to tell

Updated: Mar 26


American Faces No. 96


American Faces #96 is officially the most intimidating American Faces to date for me. I think the pressure I felt was all my own doing. I wanted to make sure I told the story well. You know, the kind of story that has grit and is shot in a really cool location. But that was my idea. Katie Berquist wanted to have her photos taken in my studio. She wanted a portrait that would reflect who she is now, not who she was in her past. To Katie, the photos should represent a clean slate.  


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So the photos you see, minus the two of her before her incredible transformation, were created in a studio with a couple of lights, a simple background and her bubbly can-do attitude. But in working through the story-telling part with Katie, I realized that I was trying to drive the narrative to what I wanted, not the story she really wanted to tell. She desired to show what victory looks like, not what past addiction looks like, and her attitude moved me profoundly. Throughout my previous 95 American Faces I have strived to tell positive stories of people and encourage others in their own life’s journey. But I realize now that the desire for “my narrative” is not likely to be what most subjects want. Like Katie, I think people really don’t want to look back at what their life was, but instead would rather look forward.  


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Years into her recovery and her Christian walk, she has a sincere love for Jesus woven through every thread of her life and it has brought her to a place where relationships have been restored. She truly cherishes her time with her sons, and has a wonderfully growing relationship with family that brings a wholeness the world cannot easily understand. Katie knows where her present joy and hope for tomorrow comes from. Katie’s bubbly and confident personality will not let you walk away from an encounter with her unchanged.


American Faces #96 has taught me a couple things about storytelling, and maybe about my own view of other people. I have learned I need to be careful of the narrative I write “for” others. I know I am called to document others’ stories, but their story is not mine to tell. 


In closing, lend an ear to someone. The story you hear may just change your life. Then go be a difference maker. The world needs you!



Photos and story by: Nielsen Studios 

Editing by: Scott Whitman






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