Created Equal: A Stunning Photo Series Exploring Cultural Difference in America

Detroit-born Photographer Mark Laita explores social and cultural clashes between different social backgrounds by juxtaposing people of United States in his stunning series “Created Equal”. By contrasting social inequality, Laita invited the viewers to think about how and why they took these different directions.

People born equal but turned out totally different in real life. Mark Laita in his photo series compare different people from all walks of life such as a bank robber and a policeman, a high school dropout and a college graduate, a company president  and a janitor etc. It took almost 8 years for Mark Laita to complete the project.

Company President / Janitor
Created Equal
Amish Teenagers / Punk Teenagers
Cultural Difference in America
Marine / War Veteran
Cultural Difference in America
Vegetarian / Butcher, 1999 / 2004
Mark Laita Created Equal
 CEO / Messenger, 2006 / 2005
Mark Laita Created Equal

 College Graduate / High School Dropout
Mark Laita Created Equal
 Indigent Couple / Wealthy Couple
Mark Laita Created Equal
Showgirl / Librarian
Mark Laita Created Equal
Rock Band / Polka Band, 2006 / 2006
Mark Laita Created Equal
 Ballerina / Trucker
Mark Laita Created Equal
Coal Miners / Male Exotic Dancers
Mark Laita Created Equal
Baptist Minister / Ku Klux Klan
Mark Laita Photography
Fitness Model / Heart Surgery Patient
Mark Laita
 French Chef / Short Order Cook
Photo Series by Mark Laita
Astronaut / Alien Abductee
Photo Series
 Homeless Man / Real Estate Developer
Social Clashes in America
 Gang Member / Mafioso
Social inequality in America
Lingerie Model / Woman in Girdle
Social inequality
Cowboy / Indian
Stunning Photo Series

 Female Body Builder / Drag Queen

inequality by Mark Laita
Catholic Nuns / Prostitutes
people of United States

     via: Created Equal

  • This is such a stunning (in the literal sense of the word) collection. The more I look the more I see…

  • Anonymous

    Interesting concept but a bit forced. I guess we could make any assumptions we want and have people compared while standing in front of a blank canvas. Many of them really did not makes senses. Why is the world of documentary now just people standing, staring blankly into a camera, no personality, no real effort by the photographer except to "cast" the models. Why were the last two sets all of the sudden a warm tone different than the others?

    • Ya.Ya. Whatever

    • Are you a photographer? This is difficult work. Its not just a snapshot in front of a 'blank canvas'. There are lights perfectly placed, 'costumes' and props placed, placement of camera, level of focus at what spot, etc. This type of portrait has been 'en vogue' for decades upon decades.

    • Anonymous

      OMG are you on drugs…this was amazing and beautiful! I could stare at these forever…it is such a deep message.

    • A lot of these made me wonder if the people who were being photographed knew they'd be juxtaposed with the other. I felt uncomfortable for several of them.

      Specifically with the cowboy and Indian picture I felt the question(s) the pairing asked were unclear. Other pictures kind of asked "What is beauty?" "What is important?" "What is feminine?" and you could glean more meaning from them. Here I'm unsure "What is American?" possibly? Pointing out how we stole land and destroyed/exploited/manipulated a culture?

      I think the artist means to pack a punch, and it least it has us all thinking.

    • I wonder if the people being photographed think that they were born equal? Someone can say all they want that everyone is born equal but from where I'm standing that's just not the case. There are things that I'm glad that I have had access to that I know others will never have access to, but there are also things that I cannot possibly conceive of ever having access to. I think that this project (as wonderfully aesthetically pleasing as it is) could be better if the artist had proposed his idea as a mere hypothesis and then used the peoples voices, thoughts, and opinions to complete his concept while still stating what he thought but keeping it separate. I just think that if a project is going to be about the people then the peoples voice should be present, it just seem's as though the artist is using the images of them but is speaking for them instead of letting them speak for themselves. Just a thought! lol

    • Ku Klux Klan and a black minister. I know who I believe in.

    • Elizabeth, the people themselves are equal, but the circumstances of their births are all different. If given a chance, people will rise, but if they are continually beaten down, they cannot. I think their very images speak clearly for them. sometimes words just get in the way.

    • Anonymous

      Johnny Graham, neither one of them.

  • I love these! Not sure anyone is "equal at birth" but we do make decisions about our own destinies.

  • I bought this book 1.5 years ago, its stunnign and fantastic.
    This feature is not, you show tons of picture withour even a link to mr. laitas fantastic book.
    so yes for the photography and book, but a no for this presentation.

  • I think the series is beautiful in some ways, I agree with Anonymous that it was a bit forced though. I also do not understand some of the comparisons and why the artist felt they relate to each other. One thing I am slightly offended by though is how they portrayed an Indian man. Stereotypes exist for a reason I suppose, but for some reason this stood out to me as being extremely disrespectful. It's one thing to mock a profession or lifestyle, but it's a bit extreme to mock a cultural as a whole, especially to imply that Indians are all overweight, unkept alcoholics. The "cowboy" he was compared against is an old fashioned ideal of a cowboy as well, and does not symbolize what a modern "cowboy" would look like in my opinion. So again this confuses me as to how and why the artist picked the two contrasting characters.

    • Are all women who wear girdles morbidly obese? Do all drag queens have tattoos on their bellies? Do all real estate developers look like they're from Texas? No. Just this one. Just like just this Indian looks like that.

    • I agree with Andrea on this point. That comparison was the only one where race was used as a description. And that bothers me. I live on a Reservation myself and there are so many other directions that could have been taken. Why couldn't he have been the chef/clerk/sercurity guard at a casino? Or owner of a business (lots of those too). Besides, many of the modern day cowboys are similar to the modern day hippie – its a style they wear, not necessarily a way of life.

    • I felt the same way about the cowboy indian photo.

  • I think this series is pretty cool. well shot but I have a gripe. why are you comparing a fitness model and a heart surgery patient? it's such an odd comparison. As a heart surgery patient myself I really don't get it. I'm not over weight or slobby. I keep fit more than most because of my heart condition. I think it's a little offense but whatever.

  • Anonymous

    Pease note that not all heart surgery patients are operated on due to lifestyle choices like the photograph is portraying. Some people are unfortunate enough to have congenital heart conditions that will require heart surgery.

  • Great portraits, but appallingly stereotypical.

  • Yes, I agree with Andrea. The "Indian" is not a great representative just down right offensive. However maybe the "Indian" in a head dress was not available because I am sure that would have been next in line for this position, equally offensive. Not all Indians are drunks, overweight or wear head dresses…educate do not create or reinforce false stereotypes.

  • Anonymous

    I think what is problematic about including the Indian is that Indian is not a choice or profession or something that happens to you. You are born Indian, you are not born any of those other things. Why is Indian the only race/ethnicity included in the photographs?

  • I don't think the person identified as a 'drag queen' is one. A 'drag queen' is a performer, and as such takes a great deal of time and effort to present the illusion of a female. The person represented in that photo may be a cross-dresser or even a trans woman, but definitely not a drag queen.

    • Dear Unknown(?) I was compelled to respond to your comment that you left because the "Drag Queen" you are referring to in this photograph is me. You are entitled to your 'Unknown" opinion because this is America but before you go deciding that I'm not a very good choice for the 'drag queen', i ask you to think about the other people in these photographs, each one of them has an untold story too. I'm very honored to be a part of this photo series that raises a lot of questions and controversy about social inequality , class and labels in our society. For the record I am not a cross dresser or a "trans woman". Oh and by the way the preferred term is transgender person. I think its hilarious that i got the label of drag queen because the image is taken slightly out of context. The picture was shot about 14 years ago , my look is intentional and masterfully crafted, it is of a character that I developed for a fundraiser for Aid for Aids LA that was called the Battle for the Tiara. It was a drag beauty pageant, a hilarious campy spoof on Miss America. It was not about presenting the illusion of a female as you put it, it was about raising money for people with HIV who need it. Believe me a great deal of time and months of work and effort went into producing this show, which happens one night only every year. We sold out an 1800 seat venue and raised over $250,000 in one night . Just a bunch of guys, none of whom are professional drag queens helping AFALA a wonderful organization that take care of basic life necessities, housing, food utility bills, ect, for people living with Hiv . Oh and by the way I won the beauty pageant the following year so I am not only a former drag queen but I am a title holding Beauty Pageant Winner , hows that for a fancy label ? – Frankie MacTavish

  • Fascinating! You'll definitely get critics but I think every great artist will and every great perspective will too.

  • 2013 and the American Indian is subjected to stereotyping still , how asinine !

  • I don't think it is realistic or fair to ask a photographer to only take a picture if it represents EVERYONE. he photographed a heart patient who happened to be fat- it made him no less ofa heart patient And he does not represent all heart patients. Same with the Indian, he could've went with a different one, but that man is an Indian- not a person dressed as an Indian claiming to represent ALL Indians. Those pictures are real. This photographer did nothing wrong. In my opinion, of course.

  • it's racist

  • Doesn't really do anything for me.

  • The Indian with liquor bottle was an offensive stereotypical image and had no place in this portfolio.

    • I was going to say the same thing. super offensive and demeaning. why not show a drunk cowboy and a Native American in a suit?

    • Gregory Mark

      It is far from the only offensive stereotype in this collection. I would give the artist the benefit of the doubt and assume stereotyping is among the ideas being interrogated here, except I see no evidence of it. This looks like a shallow pairing of well-worn stereotypes instantiated in some admittedly well-executed semi-fictional portraits. I can't detect a theme, or a message, or any idea outside the simple trope of contrast-for-contrast's-sake. The apparent shallowness reminds me of a certain sort of pseudointellectual who appears penetrating but is really only playing semantic language games, not offering any real ideas, or even probing inquiries.
      But they really are some nicely done photographs.

  • I think I just had a juxtapose overdose.

  • In my views, this is a look at the extremes in how people are perceived.
    Example: The cowboy and the Indian. The image depicts the extremes in each that people harbor in their minds.
    The Fitness Model and the Heart Patient: Again, extremes that people think when they hear the words.

    Some of the views I don't agree with, but I think the concept and actual photography was good.

    This is a series designed to stimulate conversation (Not hateful convo, but civilized conversations to make things better).

    Just my opinion, but it looks like it did what it was designed to do. People are talking about injustices, and how we see things/think things are wrong. Good stimulated conversation, as long as hate/insults are kept out, that could lead to some looking at how THEY view the world and maybe make a change.

    At least, that is how I see this series..

  • Hm, should we suppose that all the people portrayed here were born in the same time or in the same conditions, but in different years? I understand – I guess the intention wasnt to compare the indian and the cowboy in the disadvantage of the indian; maybe these were the only examples he found that fit his research (as I understood, it was more than photography, yes?). Maybe the intention was to find opposites, social preconceived categories, and to prove the point of equal opportunities, but how our choices make us different.
    Still…it is not as simple as that. It was an EIGHT YEARS effort – I will appreciate that. But created equal does not exist. Even if you are born in the same generation or the same town or neighborhood, but different years, STILL it depends on an array of factors: genetic predisposition, family, life circumstances….and many more.

  • I'd like to know what life choices that woman made to become an alien abductee.

  • Great work!!!

  • Anonymous

    Not all Indians are drunks.

    • Anonymous

      *Native Americans.

  • Beautiful art.

  • Joanna

    I love it. It is wonderful art. At first I had questions about choices of people, but when I went through it a second time I can see the merit for all of them. They are wonderful. I don't have any issues about the choices either every person modeling felt the power of the picture when they agreed to participate, so why say that one is bad or poorly portrayed. Every single person is a reality of someone in this earth and I see it more in a matter of seeing us all together. It unites people from ever walk of life. I love it!

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is a heart surgery patient.

  • People, this is ART…. It is NOT OBJECTIVE, nor was it meant to be… It is the expressions of the artist's vision… Can that EVER be wrong ? Get over it, art critics….

  • The cowboy/indian comparison was rude and racist.

  • Necol

    The man is not Indian. He's a Native American. Indians are from f***ng India!!

  • I just want to know where the photographer found this "rock band" in 2006. Eastern bloc?

  • Wow. Amazing.

  • A phtographer shows their cultural bias through their lens.
    While these are beautifully shot and lit, it became very clear to me what this photographer's cultural bias was.

    I agree that the depiction of the First Nations man is disgusting. I lost all respect for this photographer when I saw it.

    I also agree with Unknown thatFrankie McTavis was an odd choice. With much respect, thanks and admiration for the work you have done on behalf of LGBT causes (and congratulations on your win!) do you feel like you were photographed respectfully? Your couplet companion was photographed looking strong and sure of herself. You were photographed as a drag queen? What is a major centre of the power of identity for a drag queen? Shoes! Why not be photographed in them? Why have to hold them beside you like you're asking permission to wear them? I've never seen a draq queen take off her shoes. It breaks the spell.

    Why were the ballerina and the truck driver photographed without heads? Why were some people allowed to have normal facial expression while others were making faces? For a cohesive project it had a lot of loose ends.

    Is it art? Yes. Is it beautiful? Yes.
    Is it at all culturally relevant? No.
    Does it deserve a second look? No.

    Photographers make choices. This photographer made poor ones.

  • The choices are appallingly lazy and irrelevant, not to mention highly stereotypical, as most people have pointed out. We live in a world of easily accessible abundant and accurate social metrics, yet the photographer thought it wise to pair joyful corpulent butcher and a vegetarian that looks like an ascetic/hobo, and a graduate with a dropout (are we meant to think working in a grimey environment equates lack of education?). Very simplistic.
    There is nothing technically wrong with the pictures, but nothing terribly remarkable either.
    At best, this series makes us talk about the artist's own skewed view of the world, and maybe our own stereotypes. At worst, it reinforces already existing ones.

  • Interesting at first but I lost regard for the series when I hit stereotype reinforcements, as many people have mentioned. I thought the severe contrast between each "type" really failed to challenge the complicated reality of our too often thinking in these "types" first. Why not create less commonly juxtaposed pairings to go along with the mostly superficial ones? Otherwise it reduced the message to lazy opposites for me.

    The pictures themselves are really striking, though heavily curated. Was this trying to address the incredible variety of people and roles we fill in daily life? Thanks, now I'll be sure to recognize all vegetarians, First Nation Peoples, and truckers I run into as a C.E.O.

  • Anonymous

    This was amazing. All you haters can suck a dick.

  • awesome series of thought provoking photographs!

  • Meh. This just seems to be photographs of stereotypes. It would be more interesting to show people who don't fit the stereotypical image of their "identity".

  • Agreed that this is a stunning set of portraits. It seems to me that it would have been more…convincing? real? honest? had the photographer actually photographed these pairings together in the same studio. I feel like this approach would have had much more power and emotion.

    As individual portraits they are quite nice, though truly lack the individuality of the subject to come through.

    (Saying this as a former photojournalist and teacher of documentary photography)

    Matt Lit
    photo educator

  • It takes a brave photographer to put his own biases on display like this. It's provocative to see how we see things in such black and white terms, as if there were only two sides to each set of subjects instead of variegated facets. I really appreciate how he shows that up so well.

    Another interpretation may be that he's putting society's stereotypes on display in order to see the reaction they engender. The entire thing is really very meta. Stereotyping the stereotypes? What a fascinatingly layered project. Add to that the reactions of the audience – there's a multilayered art form emerging here. The stereotyping in the comments is just as telling as the stereotyping in the original photo essay. Very well done.

  • I'm not sure what level of obtuseness it takes to say "I'm not sure everyone's equal at birth" but it sure explains a lot about why people turn out the way they do.

    It's true that our decisions guide a lot of our own shaping through life, but it's vain folly to suggest that the only person controlling one's destiny is oneself. We are not islands. Other people and forces of fate and nature control us too. It's a team effort.

  • in this world is impossible to be born equal – if u take 2 new born babies , both a day old , people "cannot figure them out" ,so because they don't know what they are looking at ,they will look at their parents – the family they come in .. so – if u took the same 2 new born babies and u put "different families" next to them – u will no longer see them as equal – "in this world" – one was born to be special and one was just born here – maybe to work for the other one – and they will be raise as that – one family will tell their son that he is great and he is gonna be so big in his life, and another family will treat him as "another problem" on their head – we live in "sheep sheep land" – where all the sheep are following the money – cus if u "glue" some money on "people's skin" , somehow – that makes them "more special,smarter,more beautiful, more important etc"..than others – that must be "magic".. everything is possible on the sheep sheep land … :)

  • Not cool at all, the "indian" stereotype. I'm Native Canadian. But you would never EVER convince me to have my photograph taken like that. And the drag queen? Next to the fitness model? What the fuck. Are you saying the fitness model looks like a man? What else am I supposed to deduce? This shit just makes me think that this asshole has a lot of his OWN prejudices. What does he mean by "equal at birth" exactly? Their parents' had the same amount of money? One is better than the other? This is fucking trash. People DO make their own decisions, but does that mean that one of these people is any better than any other? NO. I'm sorry I even looked at this. Get your heads out of your asses.

  • Yeah the indian really kind of pisses me off. Having been from a family with deep ties to the southwest and Navajo tribes i find the introduction of the "prop" bottle to be a huge indication of the disregard of cultural competency on the photographers behalf. There are hundreds of thousands of proud Native Americans as they are properly referred to who would have jumped at the opportunity to represent their culture next to a "cowboy" Your work is shit sir and so is your scope of the world around you. Someone should do a series of shitty photographers next to i dunno… someone who knows what the hell their talking about.


    wonderful fotos, but apart from that, it seems to me the photographer is depicting "our" common sterotypes. Someone suggested it would have been more interesting to show against type as well as having each photographed at the same time where you would see an interaction on the subjects part. All in all, the work is inspired and makes the viewer "think", what more can you ask of an 2dimensional image.

  • Too long to see a mesmerize post like this!

  • wow great

  • Dani

    I totally agree with 'See Why Photography'. This series to me, spoke of what the general populace think of each of these things. There's a reason they seemed very obvious to everyone; you've heard these labels, you know what they're 'supposed' to look like.

    I feel this series is very obviously pointing that out. You ask the average person what they think of when they heard some of the categories and guaranteed most will think of images very similar to these (though they may not want to admit it).

    The photographer is pointing out that when you think of a gang member, you think of a young black guy with lots of tattoos (leaving out the fact that gangs can be any race, and they're not all necessarily teens). If you think of a ballerina, you picture a faceless girl in a tutu on her toes (leaving out male ballet dancers and others who aren't absolutely perfect in body; and who cares about the face as long as the legs and arms are perfect, right?). If you think of a janitor you picture a run-down old man who looks like he is either very down on his luck or alcoholic (I have seen cleaning staff of every race, sex and age I can think of). When you think about a woman needing a girdle, you think of an overweight woman desperately trying to be thinner (although the point of a girdle is to smooth out lumps/fat, its not limited to a woman who seems to have given up).

    I think its a brilliant way to point out the way society views different groups. The fact that its making people uncomfortable is a GOOD thing, its making people realize that 'hey, this IS how people think' and maybe, just maybe, it will change the negative opinions that some people have when they realize that these obvious stereotypes are not the only people to fall within all of these 'categories'.

  • this was awesome!!! didnt want it to end!

  • Some very interesting polar opposites in the choice of the two pictures. Very good work.