Paul (#679) 10-21-14

I have had poor luck getting permission for portraits from one demographic, the businessman/professional dressed in a suit and tie. I suspect that when someone dons this attire, he/she is also assuming a role, and that role does not include interacting with (non-paying) strangers. When I visited Winter park, FL, almost immediately such a man headed my way. When I approached him, I was pleasantly surprised that he seemed relaxed, interested, and a bit amused by the project.

While the camera was raised, I asked if he was from Winter Park. No, Paul is from Lake Nona (part of Orlando) and he was here to meet friends at a restaurant. I said boy, it must be a fancy restaurant to have to get dressed like that. He said, “Oh no, I'm just getting off of work.” Oh, what do you do?” “I work at the University of Central Florida College of Business Administration. I'm the Dean.” Whoa, a home run! This site is him, all right: I said that the university was HUGE. Paul said that the College of Business Administration had over 8,000 undergraduate students, the same as all undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame.

The 100 Strangers project intrigued him. “I am constantly looking for ways to challenge students to get out of their comfort zone.” Yep, this can do that, all right. Paul took my card and said that he'd check out my website.

As I was interested in the attire, I varied from my usual close crop format. I turned the camera vertical to make sure I got the tie.


Jacqueline and James (#678) 10-20-14

I was with another photographer as Jacqueline and James walked by. They were happy to be included in the project. They are in Real Estate, and relocated from Savannah. Ah, Savannah. One of my favorite cities and I told them so.

James said that he also liked St. Simons Island, GA. I told him that I'd been there a couple of times, and always ate at a restaurant called Barbara Jean's. He brightened up, “Yes, I love Barbara Jean's crab cakes.” Yikes, me too! That's exactly why I go there. And there is a coincidence, my wife is Barbara Jean. She told the waitress that as a fellow Barbara Jean, she should get a Barbara Jean's tee shirt. Sure enough, she got a free tee shirt! Of course, there was a $15 handling fee.

Jacqueline and James were satisfied with the images, but were not interested in copies.


Sue (#677) 10-19-14

Sue was waiting for a friend in Winter Park. She lives in Oviedo, in the next county. Originally she was from Noo Yawk and I could easily hear it in her voice, even though she moved to Florida 32 years ago. She worked in the area for 20 years, and is now retired at 74.

I told her that I was in the Navy in the 1970s, and assigned to the Naval Training Center in Orlando. She said that the hospital in which I worked has long since been torn down. Our tax dollars at work.

She doesn't like any pictures of herself (where have we heard that before?) Nevertheless, Sue likes the 100 Strangers concept and took my card.


Elijah (#676) 10-18-14

While visiting Winter Park, FL, I came across three high school students selling candy to raise money for the football team. Elijah approached me and showed a box full of large name-brand candy bars for $1 each. That seemed pretty reasonable; someone must have donated the bars so all raised funds would be profit.

I wanted to support the effort, but I had been consuming more than my share of junk food, and Insulin shots are very low on my wish list. So I gave him $3, but told him that I didn't want candy. I asked him to give a bar to the next three kids who came by and say that someone bought them a gift. He seemed a bit befuddled by this. I hope that he did it.

Elijah attends University High School, the beneficiary of the raised funds. He is a senior, and hopes to go to a junior college to major in business. And maybe, just maybe, get a football scholarship. He liked this image on the LCD and took my card.


Cornelius (#675) 10-17-14

Cornelius walked toward me wearing his Yamaka and scarf with Hebrew icons. When I approached him he flashed a huge smile and said, “Of course, of course.” Cornelius is homeless, but is grateful for everything in his life.

“I used to be homosexual. My boyfriend gave me AIDS, Hepatitis C and Herpes, but God cured me of the AIDS and Hepatitis C. Do you know why? Because in my heart I hold no hatred, only positive thoughts about everyone, including the man who gave me those diseases. God smiles on those who know no hatred. He rewarded me.” Then the Lord said, “You are now Jewish. So here I am.” His speech is punctuated by laughter and huge smiles. “The Lord gives back what you put out.”

What a great attitude.


Theresa (#674) 10-16-14

While driving west, a woman was walking westward on the south sidewalk. She wore a cowboy-like hat pulled back in a jaunty position. I just had to try, so I drove three blocks further, parked, crossed the street and began walking toward her. I spotted a building in shade and wanted that to be the spot where we met. So I stopped until we were equidistant and began walking. When we met, I went through my spiel and she did not hesitate.

Theresa went to nearby Cardinal Mooney High School when Fruitville Road was two lanes – now it's six. She often walks downtown which surprised me, I've never seen her and she is fairly distinctive. I asked if she worked nearby. She said, “No, I can't work, I'm disabled.” I started to reply “Oh, I'm sor..” but she dismissively waved her arm and said not to worry about it. Theresa said that maybe she should try to meet strangers, she used to love to play tennis but now she can't.

I asked her to remove her glasses for the picture. She said that she wouldn't be able to see anything; I assured her that I was the one who had to see. When I showed her the camera's LCD she put her glasses on and got her nose fight to the camera. Part, if not all, of her disability is visual.


David (#673) 10-15-14

On a sunny Sunday morning, another photographer accompanied me to watch stranger photography in action. We found an alcove in front of a closed restaurant; the buildings on the other side of the street were reflecting bright light. We had a 'studio', and just waited for a likely subject. Along came David.

He was accompanied by his dig, Kiya. Unfortunately I did not write down the breed, and I don't remember. As dogs often resemble their owners, I doubt that it was a Chihuahua. When I asked David, he shrugged and said, “Why not?” I asked him not to smile for the camera and got the first shot.

He didn't like it. “I think that people should smile for pictures. So I went to work again and got the second. He was more satisfied.

As he walked away, he turned toward me and pointed with his index finger, “People should always smile in pictures!” I have been suitably admonished.


Alaina (#672) 10-14-14

Yep, outdoors at the coffee shop again. I should have a chair with my name on it. Several tables away was a head of glorious red hair, seen only from behind. I considered meeting her when a friend unexpectedly arrived and sat down for a chat. After 15 minutes the red hair was still there, God's not-so-subtle message that I should get to work. So I excused myself and met Alaina.

She was VERY interested in the project and asked for my card. She goes around taking pictures of kids – with her cell phone. I can't imagine being quick enough with a cell phone for that. When I brought the camera to my eye, Alaina immediately assumed this pose with no prompting by me.

Alaina is an artsy design person. Her Facebook page is HERE:

Currently she works at Trader Joe's (a food store), but she is looking for an opportunity in furniture recovery and design.


Steve and Jed (#671) 10-13-14

They are brothers, and moved to the area two years ago. Jed is the “little” brother, although he is an inch taller. “I guess I ate my Wheaties (laugh).”



I asked Steve about the best thing that had happened that morning. “I paid off my ticket.” Good things are relative, I guess.




Ariel (#670) 10-12-14

I slowly drove past a sandwich joint with outdoor seating, and Ariel was on the phone. She wore a knitted cap and long gray cardigan, while the temperature was in the 90s. To me, she had a Bohemian, artsy-fartsy look. I immediately looked for a parking space, but the first one was two blocks away. By the time that I walked back, she was gone.

So I went in to order a sandwich and there she was, sitting at an indoor table. So I got a sandwich and an outdoor table, facing the door. I was ready. So as soon as Ariel exited, I made my move. At first she was a bit skeptical and asked where the photo would be used. I showed her my Flickr Photostream on the phone, and she relaxed and agreed.

Ariel works as a personal trainer for strength training, yoga, and tai chi. But she works in client's homes, mostly on Longboat Key – a very tony area. I told her that my wife had Parkinson's Disease, and she probably could have used Ariel's services in the past. Ariel had trained one person with Parkinson's in the past, “He was so funny, a real character. I always ended each session with a balance test. I had him stand alternately on each foot and I timed him. The times were pretty short. But one day while on his left foot he was doing fantastic. I watched in amazement until I looked up; his right hand was holding on to a light fixture!”

Then I asked what was the best thing that happened that day. Ariel's face brightened and shoulders relaxed, “After seven weeks, I finally won my fight with my daughter's school. This is a new school for her this year. She was placed in sixth grade remedial math. Finally they agreed that she was misplaced, and now she is in seventh grade advanced math.” I asked how that could happen. “Her transcripts were lost.” But didn't the sixth grade teacher notice that she didn't belong? “I guess that they are protecting their turf.” Apparently students need an advocate, just as patients need an advocate in the health care system.”

As we parted, I Ariel flashed a huge smile and said, “Thanks for asking.” Boy, did THAT make my day!


Stewart (#669) 10-11-14

I periodically review my Flickr photostream, to see if I am tending to photograph only certain demographic groups. I have not met many senior gentlemen recently, so I kept my eye out for one. And Stewart was sitting outdoors at my favorite coffee shop.

When I approached him, he agreed, albeit not enthusiastically. He is from Staten Island and arrived in Sarasota via Ohio. He was a bit reticent about giving out information. His generation (I guess I'm part of it) didn't grow up with the Internet, Facebook, or incessant 'Selfies.' Ours was a more private era. Nevertheless he liked the image and asked me to e-mail it to him. Consider it done.

I explained to Stewart that when I meet and photograph a stranger in the morning, the whole day seems better. It is true.


Kisha (#668) 10-10-14

Walking through Bradenton, I passed the Manatee County Courthouse. Most people were pedestrians, in harsh light. But Kisha was sitting on steps, eating lunch. When I approached her, she was quite reluctant, and I thought that I would lose her. Until I mentioned the red flower in her hair, that seemed to turn the tide.

Kisha is originally from Chigao, and has been in Bradenton for 10 years. I asked what was the best thin that has happened today, she responded “Waking up.” I get that a lot – I'll have to find a different question. When I asked what her job in the courthouse was, Kisha said, “Oh, I'm just a clerk, a paper pusher.”

What a self image, “I'm just a paper pusher”. :-(


Rob (#667) 10-09-14

I watched Rob dismount his bicycle in Bradenton, FL. He sat on a concrete ledge and appeared relaxed, so I went over to meet him. Rob was happy to be included in the project and was interested in the concept.

Rob has been a contractor in the past, but is currently unemployed and homeless. His main problem is not finding a place to stay, but to obtain antidepressant medication that he has taken for 20 years. He went to a local church for help, but they require him to accept a call back on his phone. He doesn't have a phone, so is ineligible for aid. Go figure.

Rob said that a man on the next block called police, saying that Rob was panhandling. Rob said that he was not, and asked me for nothing.

He liked this image, and I sent him a copy.


Heather & Co. (#666) 10-08-14

The two couples were at an outdoor table, laughing and joking. They all caught my eye – OK, that's a lie. Heather caught my eye, so I approached them all. Four at a time is difficult for me, as I try to look everyone in the eye as I speak; I had to move my eyes a lot. But all were up for the adventure.

I went around the table clockwise, photographing each in turn. First up was Neal, Heather's father. This turned out to be a challenge and I'll talk about him last. So next up was Heather. She knew how to pose, and automatically put her chin down, getting her eyes closer to the camera. As if those eyes needed to look larger! My determination to get a non-smiling image was thwarted. In Heather's lap was a Canon 7D, sporting a healthy hunk of glass. She is a self-taught professional photographer, and is about to post images for (hopefully), stock photography sales. Her site is HERE.

Next came Julie, Heather's mother. As I turned toward her, Heather leaned over and began placing Julie's hands, not knowing that I seldom include hands in my images. Again, Julie refused to extinguish the smile. I ripped of 16 shots in a few bursts, pleading for a neutral expression between each set. No luck. But only 15 of the shots showed teeth, in this one she let her guard down. I consider this blinking with the lips.

Justin was pretty relaxed, and was just, well,... Justin.

Now back to Neal. When we started, he was very pleasant, but a bit stiff. At first I got a toothy smile. Not that he doesn't have nice teeth, but the look was very unnatural to me. When I asked him to look more serious, he got a hard, forced squint, reminding me of those TV shots of sex predators caught in a law enforcement sting. But when I finished with Justin, Neal had sunk an inch is his chair and looked much more relaxed with the whole thing. I asked for another chance and quickly got this shot. I am pleased, as this seems to represent the real Neal and his reaction to the several minutes of shenanigans.


Josh (#665) 10-07-14

I saw Josh over a block away, heading my way. His bleach blonde hair made him distinctive. He had a large backpack. When I asked him to participate, he agreed, but seemed a little befuddled. As he was standing near a reflective window, I envisioned including his reflection in the final image. It just didn't work, so this image is cropped substantially.

Josh was born in Philadelphia and came to Sarasota 10 years ago. He carries a photo of his parents in his back pocket, and he doesn't feel like he is from anywhere. A wanderer.


Bethany (#664) 10-06-14

While loitering outside my favorite coffee shop, Bethany arrived by bicycle. It took her a couple of minutes for her to get the bike locked and secured to a pole. When I approached her, Bethany immediately brightened up, and was glad to participate. She loved my Photostream as seen on my phone.

She is originally from Wisconsin. Currently she does some marketing, but mostly gives standing paddleboard lessons. That's a new one for me.

For a change of pace, I asked her about the worst thing that had happened that day. “Almost getting hit by a car. So many cars don't give right of way to bicycles.” As she spoke I checked out the bike; I saw lots of accessory gear, but no helmet. I pointed this out and she sheepishly shrugged and said, “I know I should.” Stay safe.


Marty (#663) 10-05-14

As I walked past the Blue Owl Tavern on Main, I saw a fellow with lots of facial hardware at an outdoor table. I passed by, stopped to check some messages on my cell phone, and then went back. Stupid! He was gone, I shouldn't have waited. But luck would prevail. I got a cup of coffee across the street and kept an eye on the bar. Sure enough, Marty reappeared along with two others (another post).

Marty has been in Sarasota for 10 years, originally hailing from Massachusetts. I said, “Oh yeah, I can hear it now.” Marty said, “Lots of people can.” I told him that I was from Noo Yawk. He said that he could tell that too, even though I've been in Florida for almost 60 years. He was soft spoken and courteous.

I showed him this image on the LCD and said, “Wow, that's one tough lookin' dude.” He laughed and replied, “Nah.”


Lily (#662) 10-04-14

I was drawn to Lily's hat, and she was happy to participate. But when I looked at her closely, I was sure that I had seen (and photographed?) her before. But she said no, and when I heard the name I knew that it must have been a coincidence. And then I was proud to learn that her name had four letters, so that I would not make the mistake of a double “L”. So proud that I forgot if the last letter was a 'y' or an 'i'. Can't win. Well, for now she's Lily.

Anyway, she is from Boulder Colorado. After enduring Florida heat and humidity, she prefers Colorado and may go back. When we reviewed the images on the LCD, amazingly we both preferred the same one. That seldom happens. I gave her a card and got her e-mail address. The image has been sent.


Paul (#661) 10-03-14

Paul was sitting on the ground, on the edge of the sidewalk, playing his guitar and singing. A cardboard box neat to him contained a few small bills. He stayed in Bradenton for four years, tending to his mother. When she passed two years ago, he relocated to Sarasota. He said that recent times have been a bit tough, as it had rained almost every afternoon.

He and another bachelor are saving up to buy a sailboat. They only need $200 more. The boat has no engine, but it has a generator and small air conditioner (an absolute necessity!). They plan to live on a mooring in Sarasota Bay.

I asked him about recent good times. A couple of weeks earlier, Paul was performing in front of a Starbucks, two blocks away. A Bentley pulled up, and suddenly Jerry Springer was standing next to Paul.

“Hello, Mr. Springer.”

“I'm Jerry. Do you know any Beetles songs?”

“Yes sir, I know them all!”

Yep, that's pretty neat.


Daniel (#660) 10-02-14

Daniel was eating at an outside table in Bradenton, FL. The light was nice; he was undercover. And he was in front of a blank pink wall – I liked it. When I explained the project, and that my main goal was to meet people, he was intrigued and was happy to participate.

Daniel is from Queens, NY (same as I) and went to college in upstate New York. He came to Bradenton at age 25 and likes it here. Daniel considers himself very lucky, in that he is in the financial industry and does his work online. He can live anywhere that there is an Internet connection. Otherwise he feels that the area is not too business friendly. He made a sweeping motion around the street, “Where are the suits and ties? Most residents work in infrastructure, like teachers, police, and healthcare. There aren't many large business here hiring.”

I guess that Daniel IS lucky.