2,004 in 2004

The 2004 Reno Portrait Project

Subject No. 1110, also known as Linda, poses quickly for photographer Nick Forneris at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Subject No. 1110, also known as Linda, poses quickly for photographer Nick Forneris at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Nick Forneris’ goal is to take 2,004 portraits in 2004.

He travels with two lights, two silver reflectors, a digital camera on a tripod and white background paper. He shoots at large events, so he can take a lot of portraits in a session. He’s set up his portable studio outside the Lawlor Events Center at UNR during Michael Moore’s appearance, near the line of revelers waiting to see Social Distortion at the Reno Hilton, and at a lively First Thursday at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Forneris’ collaborator and assistant, Jeremy Smith, rounds up the subjects, asks each one to fill out a brief questionnaire—name, age, what brought you to Reno and when—and hands out a tag with a number on it.

Forneris requests that subjects make sure the numbers are showing. Other than that, they can occupy his viewfinder any way they choose.

“I’m focusing on the number, so it’s totally up to you,” he explains. “It’s your photograph.”

The friendly, tall 26 year old behind the camera must act quickly in order to get the quantity of faces he needs for his project.

“I have to gear my behavior toward speed,” he says. “I can’t really spend the time with each person I would like to. Theoretically, if you look at portraiture, or even just photographic portraiture, you’re supposed to establish a rapport with each subject and really talk to them.”

But this isn’t the kind of portraiture meant to convey a lot about each individual. It’s an attempt to gather enough photos to make something of a portrait of Reno.

“Basically, it’s not a demographic survey because it doesn’t cover enough different people,” Forneris explains. “But for me, it was never about that. It was solely about that one simple [goal.] Can I do 2,004 in 2004?”

The photos are fun to look at. They exude a vibrant pace. Each image shows one person in front of a white background with a thin, black border. (See at 208 of them at www.

chapterhousereno.com/nick.) It’s clear that each subject had just a split second with the camera, and several of these split seconds together start to form a rhythm. Some of the people in the photos look camera-shy, some goofy, some relaxed, some posed, but there’s a consistent, optimistic energy to the series.

So can he do 2,004 in 2004? It’s mid-December, and at last count he had about 1,500.

Like many artists, Forneris juggles an ambitious list of commitments. He runs a gallery (Chapter House, co-owned by Ahren Hartel and Elijah Cole), holds a full-time job and still tries to put 110 percent into his artwork.

“I like to think big and epic, even if those ideas get me into trouble,” he says.

He won’t call the project a failure if he doesn’t reach the original goal, but he hasn’t given up.

Forneris is ambitious, one of those people who sounds like he actually has 110 percent to give. He brings his camera everywhere, cites “people who work their asses off” as his artistic influences, and takes pictures while he’s driving because “the drive to work, even if it’s six minutes long, should not be wasted.”

If he finishes the project, he gets to see himself in the series. He plans to make N0. 2,004 a self-portrait.