Creative communities are built by people with compelling stories.

That’s the backbone of Wesley Verhoeve’s mission to document the stories of creatives living and working in communities outside the major hubs of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. One of Many is a photo essay series that showcases how these makers, artists, and entrepreneurs are helping to grow the independent movement in their cities, and the result is impressive (we admit we’re a little biased, since Karma is a sponsor of One of Many, but the images really do speak for themselves). Bottom line: people are making and doing really cool things in unexpected places.

Wesley has traveled to 12 US locations, including Portland, Salt Lake City, and Detroit, to document these stories and will continue to publish photo essays for the next six months. We sat down to chat with him about how the project has evolved, what he’s learned throughout the process, and some of his favorite stories.

What inspired you to start One of Many? Was there a specific moment of inception, or was this an idea that evolved slowly over time?

Anecdotally, I was witnessing friends leaving big cities, and I became fascinated by the increasing interest of creative people to live outside of the big cities, as well as the very much related desire to be a small business owner, a freelancer, or an employee of a smaller company where an impact could be made more easily. At the time, I had been traveling to New Orleans a lot, and I was curious to see what the lay of the land was across the country in these somewhat smaller cities that I had been hearing so much about from friends.

Lea Wolf, a birth photographer and doula from MadisonLea Wolf, a birth photographer and doula from Madison

What has surprised you most during your travels and talking to creatives around the US?

The openness and enthusiasm with which I have been received in all of these communities. People have been incredibly welcoming and helpful in the process of me really getting to know their city and creative community. The kindness has been incredibly touching, and ranged from a free place to stay, to a trip out to the countryside so I could experience a river jump or sharing a meal of freshly caught fish with a family, to introductions wide and far.

What do you see as the main reason for people migrating out of the traditional urban centers for creativity? Is it primarily financial or are there other factors at play?

I should say it’s not always about people leaving the big cities, but also about people choosing to stay in their own communities and not move to NYC/SF/LA at all. The reasons differ per person. Financial reasons are of course relevant for most people, but the idea of drowning in a sea of small fish is also one that comes up a lot. There is also a general increasing interest in quality of life considerations, whether it’s space, the proximity of nature or family, and more.

People have been incredibly welcoming and helpful in the process of me really getting to know their city and creative community.

Do you have a favorite image or story that has come out of your travels for One of Many?

Don’t make me pick between my children! There are many favorites. I love old people so Ms. Phila Hach in Nashville is one that comes to mind, but there are many, many favorites.

Nashville native Phila Hach has written 19 cookbooks and runs 5 businesses. She's 88.Nashville native Phila Hach has written 19 cookbooks and runs 5 businesses. She's 88.

What’s next? Do you plan on continuing the series, and if so, how will it evolve?

I hope to continue One of Many and have a few ideas on how it could grow and evolve. For now, there are still six months of publishing left and I am focused on making those six photo essays as beautiful, impactful and widespread as I can so there might be a great foundation to build on.

All images by Wesley Verhoeve for One of Many.

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