Ava had no reservations about being photographed. She said that she has her picture taken a lot, I'm not surprised. Luckily for me, she was sitting, sipping a drink in an area of quiet light.
Keepa was sitting in front of an open air bar. This is becoming one of my favorite stranger-seeking sites, as the light is good, and it does seem to attract some interesting characters. Like Keepa.
When he said his name, I asked “K-E-E-P-A?”, and was amazed that I had guessed correctly. He is from Estonia, having emigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago. He is now proud to be a U.S. citizen. His daughter is here, but Keepa's brother is still in Estonia. He worries about that. He is convinced that Vladimir Putin will annex the Ukraine, and that the Baltic States are in peril.
Keepa feels that Obama is starting to act like a Russian, spying on cellphone conversations and with police looking more and more like the military. Still, he does support a strong police force, like the National Guard.
Keepa has done some portrait work himself, but always candid. He is familiar with Photoshop and often crops individual faces out of crowds.
I was heading back to the car when I looked over my shoulder at a Whole Foods store. Alex was sitting in front, sipping a drink. Her hair caught my eye. I told her so, and she was glad to be photographed.
She is from Anchorage Alaska, about as far from Sarasota as you can get in the U.S. Alex is spending two years in the Sarasota Ballet Company, she is half way through. I asked how she found this company from so far away. Her teacher in Alaska attended a conference in Canada and met the director of the Sarasota group. He told her about Alex and the rest is history.
I told Alex that that my wife and I had spent three days in Anchorage, and had breakfast each morning in the Snow City Cafe. Her face brightened, she knew the place well. The menu is great, but expect to wait on line – in the cold.
I asked if the Florida heat bothered her. Alex's smile vanished and her eyes rolled up, “YESSS!”
As I walked down main St. a young man with two bandaged hands approached me and asked a favor. Levi asked if he could borrow my cell phone to call his boss. I did, but it rang for 30 seconds and Levi did not connect. He turned to me and said, “Now I can't get any work today. Could you spare a few dollars so that I can stay in the Salvation Army shelter tonight?” I'm not sure what work he could accomplish with two bandaged hands, but I helped him out.
When I asked his name he pulled out a card with his name, the middle name was Polson. He seemed amazed that I pronounced it correctly. Levi said that everyone pronounces it “Polston.” It didn't seem too tough to me.
He loved the image on the LCD. Levi said that it looked like a high school pic. He gave me an e-mail address and I later sent it along. I met him again a week later and he had yet to look at the message. I showed this posted pic on my phone, and again he (seemed) to love it.
I waited for service at my favorite coffee shop in Sarasota, Pastry Art. The barista, Joel asked if my camera was digital. Oh yeah. We agreed that film was dead (this should ruffle a few feathers). I said that I had a cousin Joel who is a coffee connoisseur and part time barista in Asheville. This Joel was unimpressed. I suspect that he is more of a money than coffee connoisseur. Then Joel asked what I liked to photograph, and I explained 100 Strangers. He was reluctant until I told him that his coworker, Noah, had participated. He agreed as I changer the ISO to 640 – I should have gone higher.
As I tried to get a serious shot, his coworker, Stephanie, appeared out of nowhere and got into the shot. Clearly she was not camera shy. Finally I convinced her to give Joel some room, and I got the shot.
Of course Steph was more than happy to be photographed. She's a native, and a Sarasota High School graduate. Having worked at Pastry Art for a whopping three days, I would say that she fits right in.
I sat outdoors with a cup of Joe about 10:30 in the morning. The camera was with me, but I really was not in the mood. I did not expect to approach anyone – until I saw Wanda across the street. Dan was with Wanda, but her dreads held my interest. They had tried the door to a tavern that was locked, but appeared to be waiting for an imminent opening. So I abandoned my coffee and hurried across the street.
To my surprise, both were very reluctant. Dan just gave a flat NO, but Wanda wavered. I quickly showed her my Photostream on the phone. She reluctantly agreed. I found it curious that she obviously took so much time to make up her hair, yet was not eager to share the look with others. It took her 4 years for the hair to grow out this much.
Now, when she saw the images on the camera, she LOVED them! And wanted the. She has no e-mail, so I got her snail mail address and promised to send something along. I finally got a shot of Dan, but he was so uncomfortable that I am not posting it.
After saying our goodbyes, I went back to my coffee. Looking at her address, I was concerned that I had misspelled something. So I went back over and tried the tavern door. Still closed. But then I heard her voice from the drivers seat of a late model SUV,”Hey, don't forget to send the photos!” I went over and showed her my journal and sure enough, I had the address wrong.
I usually crop square, but that's kind of awkward for a print. I tried a 6X4 aspect ratio, but it just didn't work. But 4X5 seemed good, so what the heck, I printed the color and B&W version 10X8 and sent them along. I have never had a stranger change her mind about being photographed so abruptly.
I met Paula and Dan in downtown Tampa. They are mother and son. Both live in the area. I asked Paula if she worked nearby. She said yes, in an office, and swept her arm over an area that must have 2,000 offices. I took that to mean that she was not interested in specifying which one.
Dan worked in Ybor City, a Cuban neighborhood about two miles away. He said that I should try to photograph strangers there. “It's a very eclectic society, one guy even tries to lick your shoes.”
So I Googled this HERE.
Sure enough, there are many links to the “Ybor City Shoe Licker. You learn so much good stuff in the 100 Strangers project.