Frequently Asked Questions
PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT is a national storytelling initiative that seeks to define what it means to be an American today. To answer this question, PBS and its partners are gathering photo, video and text submissions from an array of Americans. The initiative also includes stories from PBS Digital Studios that will stream as a companion miniseries, a documentary series inspired by user submissions, live event experiences, and educational materials for classrooms across the country.
PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT aims to capture the state and spirit of our nation in a way that only PBS is positioned to do. With our unique access to all Americans, we’re inviting audiences to be heard and to share their stories, through their own words and images.
PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT was inspired in part by Edward Steichen’s historic 1955 exhibition “The Family of Man.” While Steichen’s historic exhibit featured photographs taken around the world by professional photographers, AMERICAN PORTRAIT will consist of videos, photos and text created by the public.
PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT is a national storytelling initiative that will live across multiple platforms. People across the nation are invited to submit their unique stories by responding to a series of thought-provoking prompts. For each prompt, a user can respond by submitting a video, a photograph, a drawing/illustration or text. Here are the prompts currently being used by the initiative:
- I was raised to believe…
- The tradition I carry on is…
- What keeps me up at night is…
- When I step outside my door…
- Most days I feel…
- A day’s work is…
- My greatest challenge is…
- My parent(s) wanted me to…
- My Saturday night looks like…
- My American story started when…
- You don’t know what it’s like to…
- What gets me out of bed in the morning is…
- The people I relate to are…
- I took a risk when…
- I never expected…
- When this is over…
- Now is the time…
- Family looks like…
- At this point in my life…
- My American dream…
- To me, work means…
- My life right now…
- Looking ahead, I…
- I stand for…
Each user submission will be available once uploaded to the web platform. Submissions will live on the web platform and inspire social media conversations, digital series, and the broadcast documentary series, aimed to premiere on PBS in 2021. Find out when to watch by checking the airdate schedule.
As long as they follow the submission and community guidelines, anyone can submit.
Yes, student-facing discussions, storytelling curricula, and professional learning materials for teachers are available on PBS LearningMedia (https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/american-portrait/) .
We are mindful of the sensitivities of some of our users, so we created a label to let you decide whether or not to view the content. Some examples of the types of content that we label as mature are discussions of drug use, self-harm, or sexual violence.
Yes, we are excited to be rolling out captions onto our site. You may notice that some videos have captions and some do not. We are hard at work making sure all the videos are captioned.
If you see an error in a caption, please contact support at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Click on the video you want to watch.
Depending on your browser, captions are turned on different ways.
In the player:
- a) If you see a CC button, click on that to turn captions on/off
- b) Click on the ellipsis (three dots) and you will see an option to turn captions on/off
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress or thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. Call 1-800-273-8255 or Talk to Someone Now.You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting 741-741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform.For more resources and education on suicide prevention and mental health conditions, visit:
Each person who wants to participate will create an account. Here’s how:
- Tap the Account icon in the main navigation of the homepage. It’s next to the search icon.
- Now you will be on the login page. Since you’re a first time user, select the Register tab and fill in your info.
- Agree to the Terms & Conditions and confirm you’re of age.
- Click Register.
- Next, you’ll receive an email from PBS American Portrait to confirm your account.
- Follow the instructions in the email either by copying the code or clicking on the link.
- Now you are Registered and ready to Share a Story!
Unfortunately, users younger than 13 are unable to create submissions, but are free to explore and read the stories already up on the site.
By way of awesome code magic, we will be pulling your zip code data into our system, so that we can display your story(ies) on our interactive map. Feeling concerned? Safety is a top priority for the PBS American Portrait team and we will never share your exact location.
Once logged in, there are a few places on the site where you can Share a Story.
From the Homepage:
- You'll see the 'Share a Story' button near the PBS American Portrait logo in the main navigation.
- When you click on the button to Share a Story, you'll be taken to the Onboarding page.
- Click "Get Started" to go to share a story
- You'll be shown a list of Prompts to respond to, choose the prompt you'd like to use.
- Now the fun part! Create a response to your prompt.
From a prompt band (Choose this option to respond to a particular prompt):
- Select the prompt you want to answer (A prompt is a suggested story line such as: "I was raised to believe..." or "The tradition I carry on...")
- At the end of the prompt sentence you'll notice a plus sign (+) in the lower right corner.
- Tap the (+) and create a response to your prompt.
From the Account page:
- Tap on the Account icon in the upper right on the homepage. If you are logged in it will be green.
- Navigate to the Account tab and you will see a button to Share a Story.
We encourage you to be creative and share your unique story that specifically responds to the prompt you've selected. You can also submit multiple stories in response to different prompts! Before getting started, we recommend reading through our Submission Guidelines.
If you are having trouble uploading, check to make sure you have a strong internet connection. If the upload stalls, please reload the page and try again.
You're welcome to share your story, and to encourage others to participate in the project by submitting theirs too! We'll provide links to post to Twitter & Facebook, to send via email, and to copy/paste into a browser. If you'd like to share your post on Instagram, please upload it directly through the Instagram app (unfortunately Instagram does not allow uploads from other websites). Please use the hashtag #AmericanPortraitPBS to help tie all of these stories together.
All submissions to PBS American Portrait go through our moderation process. If there are no issues (technical or other), your story will be live on the website and viewable through search and on the map; your story may also be featured in other American Portrait experiences including social, books, podcasts, exhibits, a broadcast television documentary series, and more.
Yes, you can answer as many as you like!
Deleting Your Story:
- Navigate to the account page and click the 'Go to Account Page' button.
- Select the 'My Stories' tab, find the story you would like to delete, click on the three dots located to the right on the story.
- Click 'yes' to confirm you would like to delete your story. Your story will be removed from the site and your 'My Stories' tab.
Yes, in order to submit a story you need to create an account using your email. The stories you submit will be saved in the 'My Stories' tab in your Account.
If your forgot your email or need to update the one you previously used to sign up please contact support at email@example.com.
From your Account, you can manage stories you have created, view stories you favorited and add another submission.
The login icon is located in the main navigation bar on the upper right hand side of the Homepage. Once you are logged in the icon will turn green.
Logout is located on your Account page.
If you are having trouble logging in:
- Check that your email address is correct.
- Your Login Code / Magic Link may have expired (the Login Code and Magic Link expire within an hour).
- Make sure you have only used your Login Code / Magic Link once.
*If this is not the case please contact support at firstname.lastname@example.org