Dave is rather distinctive looking, and I had seen him several times in the past. He said that his friends call him Santa – gee, I wonder why. As Al (yesterday's blog post) spoke of life on the streets, Dave chimed in and related many frustrations. His demeanor remained friendly, however. The lady police officer remained almost at our sides.
On a perfect Saturday morning, the Sarasota (FL) Police Department had a booth set up at the local Farmer's market. It was located at one end of a street, near a fountain with several benches often frequented by the homeless. A lady officer was 'manning' the booth, and she was supplying information about the department's new liaison program with the homeless. My next few strangers came from this location.
She spoke at length with one man with a scruffy beard, and the body language suggested an amicable exchange. When there was an apparent break in the conversation, I introduced myself to Al, and asked for a portrait. He said, “Sure”. Next to him was a large tricycle with ample side baskets filled with old electric motors. Al “dumpster dives” for old electrical equipment, as he has a source to sell reclaimed copper.
Al used to live on a sailboat, moored in Sarasota Bay. Police told him to move, several times, and he did. Finally, police inspected the boat and found no provision for proper waste disposal. Al told them that when he needed to use the restroom, he rowed his dinghy ashore and found a public facility. (We are not supposed to judge Strangers, but I find this not a credible response. Row ashore at 3AM?) Anyway, Al said that the officer pointed to a nearby high rise condominium complex and said, “Those people don't want this boat here.” The boat was confiscated and destroyed.
Prior to destruction, Al asked to go aboard and retrieve some copper containing materials that he could sell. He was told that the boat was no longer his, and to leave. I report this as I was told by Al, there is no verification.
At this point, I brought the camera into view. Al began to look at me, but then became teary-eyed, so I quickly put it behind my back.
Al said that there are several homeless communities in nearby woods. I would not be safe going there by myself with the camera (don't worry!). At 1PM on Saturdays, however, a benefactor buys pizza for the homeless and serves it at a local unused ballpark. Al said that that gathering is safe, and it would be a good place to meet strangers. I'll have to think about that. At this point, I got the images.
As we spoke, a couple of other homeless men joined the conversation. One was Dave, tomorrow's Stranger.
Well, this is embarrassing. I posted Natalie, #297 a couple of weeks ago. I forgot to follow up with her significant other. Worse, I have lost (misplaced?) my Moleskine journal. I remember this fellow, but I forget his name. Bummer.
What's-his-name lives in Fairbanks, AK, but is originally from Oklahoma. The winters there can be severe, but NOTHING like Alaska. But the weather has turned upside-down this year. I said that I thought that Alaska was relatively warm this winter. He said, “Oh yeah, until two weeks ago. Then it REALLY got cold.” What's-his-name said that Natalie is used to it – not him.
I consider ‘Susie’ one of my best efforts. She was a very reluctant subject.
While walking on a sidewalk three blocks from my home, the path was extremely crowded. A restaurant had outdoor seating, undercover. I saw ‘Susie’ eating with a friend and her hat really caught my eye. The area was too crowded, and I am very reluctant to approach someone at a restaurant, lest the owner feel that I am harassing customers. So I continued on.
Several minutes later, the two of them were walking my way, almost upon me. They were so close that I hurried ahead and reversed course, so that I could approach them head on. Always when I give up on a person, but later have a second chance, I feel obliged to ask for a portrait. Call it fate, Karma, or whatever, I have become rather metaphysical about this. Someday I’ll get ambitious and start a discussion string about this.
Anyway, when I explained 100 Strangers and asked to meet her, she crinkled her face and asked, “What???”. She looked like I was some kind of a deviant. Worse, she had walked half a step past me and looked back over her shoulder. I have found this body language to be the kiss of death. But I repeated the request. She looked at her friend, shrugged, and said “I guess so.” As a clicked, she said with a horrified look, “Are you going to give my name?” I said. “I don’t even know your name. You could lie to me.” Still she looked uncomfortable. I said, “I know, you’re name is Susie. Hello Susie!” This finally broke the ice and I got the shot. Susie’s friend seemed amused by the entire episode.
Her clothing was bright yellow, and it had been the yellow hat that caught my eye. My plan was to leave the image in color. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get a good background, and the colors on the right side of the frame were awful.
They are from Massachusetts, and were there during December and January. It was the coldest that they ever remembered, and I think that they had been around a while. :-)
Amazingly, we parted friends – sort of. I still don’t know her real name.
Vlad is kind of unique. I heard him performing at a local art festival. Most of the event was dedicated to visual arts, but a few musicians were sprinkled in. Vlad’s instrument is the tsimbaly, or hammer dulcimer, from Belarus and Ukraine. You have probably never heard anything like it. You can read about it (and Vlad) HERE.
Originally from Eastern Europe, Vlad now makes his home in Toronto. Part of the year he travels and performs. Why not? Why not be in Florida in February instead of Toronto?
He was playing classical music by Chopin, Beethoven, etc. I bought a CD. I asked if he composed his own music. He said yes, but he had run out of those CDs; it would have to be ordered online. I find it VERY pleasing. There is a 21 second youtube video of Vlad playing, HERE.
He is quite shy. When I asked for a portrait he hesitated before agreeing. I was pleased at the genuine expression that I captured.
While strolling on the sidewalk near an outdoor festival, a tall young man caught my eye, for his gait and “presence.” It’s hard to put it into words. But he was moving quickly and I had little chance of catching him. But a few minutes later, I saw him “manning” a booth in the festival. When I explained my project, Johnny expressed interest and enthusiasm. Unfortunately (for me) he smiles constantly – that’s just the way his.
The booth was for Waldorf Sarasota, an alternate educational environment for children, kindergarten through 5th grade. Johnny Was surprised that I had not heard of it. The Waldorf mission statement is interesting, “We are an intentional school community founded by parents, teachers and friends seeking a unique, progressive education for our children. Serving early childhood through elementary grades, Waldorf Sarasota honors imagination as the heart of every child's learning foundation to cultivate creativity, courage, confidence and contribution to the world.” The website for the Sarasota facility is HERE:
It was refreshing as Johnny explained aspects of the educational program with childlike enthusiasm. This project opens my eyes to new things almost daily.
I have been negligent in posting other photographer's work on Wednesdays. So here I am, posting someone else's work on Wednesday. :-)
Eric Kim is predominantly a Street Photographer, doing candid work. Occasionally he does Street Portraiture, with permission. Here he gleans eight lessons from the work of Zoe Strauss. Much of her portraiture work involves subjects in difficult social situations, and can make the viewer uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I find good food for thought here, and hopefully you will too. See Eric Kim's analysis HERE.
I was speaking with a fellow named Al, who was very outgoing and energetic. When He understood that I was trying to meet, and photograph strangers, well, he began to help. As Bonnie walked by, he called out, “Hey, do you want to be photographed?” She stopped for a second and I immediately approached, and met her. Thanks, Al. If there were money involved, I would owe him a royalty. Thanks, Al!
Bonnie is originally from Tallahassee FL, but has lived in Sarasota for several years. I asked her what the best thing that had happened that day was. I got a common response, “I woke up.” So I gave my usual retort, “Aw, you are too young for that to be the best thing. For someone my age, it might be, but you must have more exciting things in your life than that.” She smiled, looked thoughtful for a few moments and then said, “My health. I have good health.” Well, I guess that that could be exciting.
I told Bonnie that I liked her bling. For simple headshots, I usually like a square crop. But I cropped this vertical to include the entire necklace.
Another fine Saturday morning and I began my walk at 8:30 instead of my usual 9:00. What a difference in the light! I need to stop being lazy. As I approached my favorite coffee shop with outdoor seating, I saw Kathy and Jamie, not to mention the dog. Kathy was perfectly backlit, so I introduced myself and asked for the usual favor. No problem! Both went to local schools. Kathy attended a Christian school that has subsequently closed. Later she attended the local Community college and the University of South Florida. Hey, I went there too! But several decades earlier.
The pooch is Gimli. I struggled with the spelling until Jamie said that the name came from “Lord of the Rings.” I told them that the age thing was rearing its ugly head again. A name from Laurel and Hardy, or Gasoline Alley might be familiar to me.
They liked the images and took my card.
As I walked through an outdoor health fest, I passed the “Genesis” kiosk. I was about to approach the proprietor when he spied, and quickly approached, me. “Try this” he suggested, and held out a thin tin pouch labeled “Genesis”. George explained that it contained pomegranate extract and was full of antioxidants. He assured me that I would feel extra energy for the rest of the day. OK, I tried it and it tasted a bit like Welch’s Grape Juice. Pleasant.
George lived in Tampa and was the regional representative for the Symmetry Corporation, maker of Genesis and a gaggle of other health products. He was working the booth in Sarasota for one day only. Check the website HERE.
George gave me his business card which listed this general Symmetry site HERE.
The things that I will do (drink) for a portrait. George was happy to be photographed, and I sent him a copy of this image.
In all honesty, the rest of my day was fine, but I didn’t feel any more, or less, energetic than usual.
While I sat outdoors in St. Augustine, consuming a cup of coffee, Jim sat down at a nearby table. His body language caught my eye, so I went over and introduced myself. He was originally from Chicago, but had relocated to Bradenton FL, 30 miles from me.
When I described my stranger project, I could not get all the words out before he started to get up and said, “Where would you like me to stand?” Wow, what cooperation! But I had already considered the light and background, and assured him that he was in a good location.
As we were talking, his wife approached and sat down. I explained the project; she smiled and said, “Not a chance!”
Quite a difference.
Just a few blocks from home I passed Natalie and her friend. I have an affinity for redheads (my wife is one), so I stopped and asked my question. She was surprised and a little shy (embarrassed?) but agreed. This time of year many folks in Florida are visiting from ‘up north.’ Natalie is from Fairbanks, Alaska – REALLY up north.
She is an Alaska native and owns a bar in Fairbanks. Sounds like a gold mine to me; what else is there to do, certain times of the year? But her mother lives in Venice, so she is about to spend two weeks here.
I asked her what the best thing was that had happened to her that day. She smiled and shrugged, “Waking up this morning?” I said, “Nah, you are too young for that.” Then she said that sitting outside on her mother’s lanai and drinking mimosas in February just seemed crazy. Ah, that’s better.
With two other photographers in tow, I saw an artist sitting on the ground, in the middle of a park. He was out in the open. Normally the light would be far too harsh, but a heavy overcast made portraits virtually anywhere a possibility.
He was Brian, originally from New Jersey. He was immediately interested in the Stranger project, and was sympathetic to my two friends who were approaching strangers for the first time. As we spoke, I noticed a finished pencil sketch portrait, a very good likeness of Elvis Presley. Brian was probably a very small child when Elvis died.
Brian recalled a photographer in New York who had a similar project. I asked if it was Brandon Stanton. It was not. Brian was unfamiliar with Humans of New York (HONY), Brandon Stanton’s work. I gave him the Facebook address which Brian immediately put into his cellphone. If you have not seen HONY, check it out HERE.
I love the relaxed, genuine look that Brian has. My two friends photographed him afterwards, and Brian had the same peaceful expression.
Sometimes fate is a wonderful friend. I had offered to take two photographers on a city walk to find, and photograph strangers. It’s always gratifying to see someone make their first connection. Well the luck today is that Main Street was closed, and filled with booths selling health and healing products, including spiritual healing. People everywhere!
One of my compatriots pointed to a gaily dressed, smiling lady in a booth called “Silver Stream of Consciousness.” The vendor was Elaine Silver – I get it! Elaine was extremely outgoing and more than happy to be photographed. I liked the background. Black and white just doesn’t do her justice.
While we spoke, a CD was playing softly; it was Elaine singing a folk hymn (my term), and it was beautiful. Her website is HERE.
I immediately bought the CD. She was a bit rushed, as she was scheduled to get on an outdoor stage to sing to the masses.