Kathleen (#775) 01-30-15

I drank coffee while observing the passersby: sort of like a shooting gallery. Then along came Kathleen with this great hat. I like identifying women with stylish hats, not the floppy keep-the-sun-off hats, but hats meant to make a statement. The occupants know that they look neat and are usually ready to talk some. As was Kathleen.

As soon as I stopped her and explained my intention, she said, “Oh sure, I get asked to be photographed fairly often, everyone likes the hat.” Kathleen is from Washington D.C., and is staying in Sarasota until March 1. I remarked,”Oh nice, be a fair weather friend and leave during the cold!” She grinned.

The first few shots were disappointing, the background was too bright. I explained that and turned to get the brightest area to my back. “Yeah”, she said, “The shadows won't be as harsh.” “Oh, you ARE familiar with this process!”

Then Kathleen asked what the image was for. I explained Flickr and showed her my Photostream. She knew Flickr, and was VERY impressed with the project and her photo. But she didn't want a copy. Fewer than half do. :-(


Steve (#774) 01-29-15

Steve is from Chicago. When I told him that I was from Venice (FL), he said “Ugh!” and pointed to his hat. “That says “Vienna, not Venice.” He shrugged.

Steve was sitting at an outdoor bar at 10AM, sipping a brew. When I saw the light in his eyes (I always look), I just had to get a portrait. When I asked, Steve said,

“I look like a bum with the beard.”

“A lot of men have beards.”

“Yeah, but it's just not me.”

“Then why didn't you shave?”

“I was with a woman for three days, that's why. And the....”

Let's just say that Steve's expectations were not met. He had been drinking with the woman the previous night, and needed the beer now to clear his head. He does tile and marble work. I said that building was picking up, and that work should be easier to find. Steve said, “I'm 62 now, and getting a Social Security check. I just can't get into looking for work.”


Alex (#773) 28-01-15

Actually, it's Alexandra. She was sitting in a small garden in St. Petersburg, having a smoke. Alexandra was born and raised in St. Pete, a graduate of St. Petersburg Catholic High School.

Across the street was the newly revamped Sundial St. Pete. Not so many years ago, this was developed as the BayWalk, and was supposed to revamp all shopping and dining in the area. Alex works at one of the tenants, the Locale Market. I like the play on words, Locale. In a month, a Locale restaurant will open.

She was amused by the project and liked her picture. She really liked the photostream, and took my card. Alexandra said that after she saw the image on Flickr, she'd e-mail me for a copy. We'll see...


Louis (#772) 01-27-15

Walking on 4th St. in St. Petersburg, there were several apparently homeless men in my way. Louis, in a wheelchair, Waved toward me and asked for some help. In purchasing lunch. I struck the usual bargain and handed him a few dollars. He “God blessed” me.

Louis was born in Ohio and relocated to St. Petersburg in 1978. This was at the end of a tour in the Marines that left him an amputee. He gets VA medical benefits and the wheelchair, but no more. He said that there are ~25,000 homeless in St. Pete, and pointed to several locations where he has slept. The police have become more strict recently as a couple of new high end condominiums have been built.

Louis contends that many homeless are junkies or drunks, but that he is neither. When he gets extra money, he buys food for his homeless friends. For $5 he gets an excellent sandwich at Publix Supermarket. Louis was looking forward to using my contribution fro a sandwich, and he knew exactly which one: turkey and Swiss cheese. Sounds good to me.


Morgan (#771) 01-25-15

Having a Coke outdoors, Morgan seemed relaxed and approachable. She was. A native of Sarasota, she graduated from nearby Riverview High School. I commented about how Venice High School dominates Riverview in Football. She was unaware and uninterested.

Now she works at the recently opened, University Town Center Mall. Specifically at Sephora, a store as familiar to me as football is to Morgan. “We sell fragrances and make-up.” That explains why. She agreed with me that the new mall is overhyped – overdone and oversold. But the pay is higher than other stores, so what can you say?

A few minutes later I was driving, and Morgan came flying by on her bicycle. She seems like an individualist.


Ron (#770) 01-25-15

I liked the hat, and I told him so. I went into my usual talk about meeting strangers, taking portraits and then said, “I haven't met you before. Can I meet you and take your picture. His response was “No.” Silence. Then, “Where do you want me to stand?” I said that I thought the answer was no. Ron said, “I said 'no', you haven't met me before. But you can take my picture (smile).” He had me.

Ron has been a self employed plumber for 35 years. “Self employed is the only way to be.” I said that the economy is picking up, his business should too. He said, “I don't want the recovery to come too fast, I like the vacation.” I said, “Ah, you must not have a wife and kids.” Ron said that he had an ex-wife and kids. That sounds even more expensive, but he was living the good life.

Ron liked the images, but did not want a copy.


Jacqui (#769) 01-24-15

While in Tampa, about an hour after photographing Tom (My previous post) Jacqui was sitting on the same wall. Only she was reading. I hated to interrupt her, but not so much that I didn't interrupt her. She was OK with being photographed, although a little reserved. At first.

Jacqui was born in Tampa, and went to a local High School. My guess was that she was a college student, so I asked. “No, I'm a lawyer.” Yikes! I told her that she looked too young to be a lawyer. She rolled her eyes up and said, “I've been a lawyer for a while.” Actually since 2009, when she graduated cum laude, from Law School at the University of Florida. For two years I lived within 100 yards of it.

When I explained 100 Strangers, Jacqui said that she had done photography in the past. Black and white film, to be exact. So when I showed her my Photostream in b&w, she was interested, and gave me her e-mail address to get copies of her images. She preferred the straight on look, but I am partial to the first image.



Tom (#768) 01-21-15

Tom was sitting on a low wing wall in Tampa. He seemed relaxed and unencumbered, so I figured that he had time for a portrait. It took a little convincing, but not too much.

With the Chicago hat, I assumed that he was from Chicago. No, “I just liked the colors.” Tom is from central New Jersey, clam digging country.

“Oh, near Barnegat Bay?”

“No, south of there.”

Tom is retired from the Army and moved to Tampa in 1997. I got several bursts of images. As I showed him each one, he groaned “Oh Gawd, I look like that?” I offered to take more to get an expression he liked. “No, the pictures are good, I just hate that I look like that.”

As I walked away he called out laughing, “Hey, don't you ever photograph pretty young girls?” Oh yeah...


Jericka (#767) 21-01-15

On a stranger hunt in Tampa, I saw Jericka across the street. When I approach a stranger, I like to cite a positive physical characteristic that is believable. Her hair was distinctive enough to qualify. She was wearing a shirt that said. “Taco Bus”, and she was standing in front of an eatery called..., “Taco Bus.”

So I walked over to introduce myself my first thought was that she looked younger than I thought. I almost panicked, but then figured if she was old enough to work there, she ought to be old enough to be included in the 100 Strangers group. I immediately complimented her on the hairstyle, and she shyly giggled. And approved being photographed.

Jericka is from Polk County, about 20 miles east. She has worked at Taco Bus for three months, but would really like to continue her education at nearby Hillsborough Community College. I told her that I went to the University of South Florida in Tampa. But that I had graduated a long time ago, in 1967. Her jaw dropped, and her eyes got huge as she said, “No WAY!” Apparently she didn't know that people this old existed.


Dale (#766) 01-20-15

At a motorcycle rally, of course I wanted to meet a couple of typical Harley types. I think that Dale fits. He was standing alone, appearing contented, during a lull in the deafening noise. He was affable and happy to be included in the 100 Strangers project.

Dale is from Clearwater, FL. He has five motorcycles, his wife two. Oh, and a dog. A bulldog who rates a trailor, towed behind Dales Bike. I checked it out, pretty neat. It is well padded and a suitable space for any pampered bulldog. When a puppy, he jumped onto Dale, breaking two ribs. Dale's. And Dale is proud of that.

Dale works for a towing company, this is his forth year at Thunder by the Bay. But he has been at the Daytona rally for 21 years. I guess he likes it. While we spoke, his wife, Daisy, and the dog approached. Daisy had no interest in being photographed, and I'm sorry to say that I did not write down the dog's name. He has a face that even a mother might have second thoughts about. But not Dale.


Miriam and Giovanni (#765) 01-19-15

The motorcycle rally was intermittently too loud for speaking; I had to pick my times carefully. When I spotted Miriam's hair in the distance, I just had to act. I waited for a minute, and She and Giovanni were slowly ambling my way. So I resorted to a technique that I find very helpful. I followed them – from in front. I slowly walked in the same direction assuming that they'd follow. When I passed by a location with decent light and background, I stopped and waited. When they went by that spot, I walked up to meet them.

Both were in a festive mood and were happy for the 'opportunity' to be photographed. Giovanni had a mild Italian accent. He has been in the U.S. For eight years. A man wearing a University of Illinois jacket passed and Giovanni pointed and Said,”That's my jacket! That's my school!”

Miriam's accent was much thicker. I had trouble understanding her name, so with Moleskine journal in hand, I got her to spell it. When I realized that it was Miriam, such an easy name, I felt a bit embarrassed. My wife and I had eaten with a Miriam the evening before, although that Miriam was several decades older with less interesting hair. Well this Miriam lives in Milan and is only visiting the U.S. She has only four more days here.

“How do you like it here?”

“It's nice, but I wanted warm, sunny weather.”

She got neither.

When I pulled up the camera, she immediately assumed this pluckish look.


Ed (#764) 01-18-15

I have seen Ed before at five points in Sarasota, always holding a sign. Usually it is something about the ills of rampant capitalism, but today's message was “Violence Insults King's legacy.” When I approached Ed I was braced for a cantankerous curmudgeon. Instead, I got an open, friendly man who appeared delighted to talk. And be photographed.

Nearing martin Luther King's birthday, Ed puts the capitalism sign away and carries the “King's Legacy” instead. Ed is 94 years old, and still plays tennis. In fact he played tennis the morning that we met. In the past he was a doubles Florida Champion in the masters division. He was born in Cleveland and moved to Sarasota in 1948 (the year I was born). During his career, he was a lithographic stripper in the printing industry, a job that no longer exists.

He has a holistic view of society and is jaded by our government. Ed seems nearly outraged by the behavior of industry and the banks. And he is very sympathetic to the people, both here and abroad, who are adversely effected by them. He is open minded about the meaning of God – one daughter moved to Israel and converted to Judaism. Ed has carried the signs for many years. Only once did a man become hostile to the capitalism sign, and tried to take it away. Passersby came to Ed's defense and the sign was saved.


Peter (#763) 01-17-15

During Thunder by the Bay, Peter was wearing the typical Harley clothing. With the beard, he fit right in. And he was sitting on a side street where the light was OK, and I could almost hear myself think. Peter was friendly, and happy to be photographed.

Peter is originally from Ireland, and he does have the brogue. Now he splits his time between Toronto and Ireland, where his parents live. Toronto just happened to be -20 that day, he noted. “You should do your 100 Strangers in Ireland, people are friendly and open there, more so than in the U.S.”

His Harley was parked about two blocks away. I asked if he had done the Daytona motorcycle rally. “Yes, Last year. Never again. It's just too crazy there.


Jovana, Aleks, and friends (#762) 01-16-15

Last weekend, downtown Sarasota was taken over by Thunder by the Bay, an annual motorcycle rally. It's a great place to see interesting people, but the ear-splitting noise makes forging relationships a bit challenging. Z's restaurant has a wide open wall to the street. To satisfy the thirsty crowd, an ice cooler full of brews was placed at the opening, tended by a pretty young lady.

Jovana (pronounced 'Yovanna') was talking to Aleks (pronounced 'Alex') in a language unfamiliar to me. They are from Serbia, so this is what Serbian sounded like (a first time for everything). Detailed discussions were impossible for the right reason – everyone was having too much fun. Jovana and Aleks were happy to be photographed, and each liked the results. While they were looking at the back of the camera, Wade came up and said, “How about me, don't I get to be photographed?” The answer to that was obvious. Turns out that Wade works at Z's with Jovana, Aleks does not. And Bob was nearby the entire time, tossing verbal barbs and wisecracks. He wore classic Harley duds. “Sure”, he said, “I don't mind being photographed.”




                                        Jovana & Wade


All were laughing and joking. All liked their images, and all wanted cards. I had to go back to the car to get some more. In one way, this is street portraiture at it's best, all being happy. BTW, it was before noon. I don't think that adult beverages were involved. Well, not much.


Dominic (#761) 01-15-15

I had just parked on Main St. by one of my favorite stranger hunting grounds when Dominic walked in front of my car. His beard, dapper look, and sartorial presence immediately caught my eye. I quickly fumbled to get the camera out of the bag, the Moleskine journal into my packet, and my wits about me. I had to hurry to get around him to introduce myself.

Dominic is from Tampa, and works for Merrill Lynch. He was in Sarasota for the day to learn some procedures from the local office manager. When I told him that I lived in Venice for most of my life, he thought I meant Venice Italy. I said, “If my name was Dominic, I would live in Italy.” He replied, “I'd like to live in Milan.

I explained that people in business dress seldom want to be photographed, in my experience. He was very interested in 100 Strangers and asked for a copy of the image, and my card. Dominic then THANKED me for including him in the project. I love it!

That evening I got an e-mail from him, again thanking me. I was so impressed that I have included the text below:

“Great to meet you today Bob! I think your 100 stranger project is pretty cool.  I try to talk to three people a day I would not normally talk too, and if that means stop them in their tracks to ask how their day is going so be it. All I have is today!

We are all connected 100x over and should cherish the moments we are blessed with.”

How nice is that?


Duneska and Armen (#760) 01-14-15

Armen and Duneska were imbibing in front of my favorite coffee shop, so they were fair game. When I 'made the ask', Duneska seemed a little befuddled and reluctant. Armen said yes right away. She asked,

“What is this for?”

I showed her my photostream and said,”It's a way to meet people. The camera is a tool. I never would have walked up to you and introduced myself without the camera.”

Armen: “Why not?”

Duneska smiling at him: “Because you look too mean.”

Armen moved here from Ocala, FL, eight years ago, to be near family. He likes Sarasota and Ocala about the same. Duneska came to the U.S. From Columbia 16 years ago. She has a slight, delightful accent.

I got a few shots of Duneska, which she didn't like at all. A bit frustrated, I turned my attention to Armen. He really liked the images, as did Duneska. I saw how she was sitting and said, “Don't move, stay just like that”, and got the posted image. She liked it. I e-mailed both to Armen, and have had no reply.

Before leaving, I asked Duneska, “What should readers know about Columbia?”

“That it is a beautiful country, and pretty safe. It's not like you hear on TV.”


Stewie (#759) 01-13-15

While driving, I waited for a long red light. A young man walked by on the sidewalk, looking at each car. He held a crude cardboard sign that said, “Homeless, will work, God Bless.” After he got 30-40 yards away, he turned about and headed back to the corned, whacking his sign against each signpost that he passed, as if he were mad at it. At the corned, he turned around and retraced his path.

Next to me was a bank. The entrance was in shade, a decent place for a portrait. When the light turned green, I pulled into the bank parking lot, got out, met Stewie, and discretely made a small contribution to his well being. He said that the sign was legal, as long as cops didn't see him accept money from someone in a car.

Stewie's Mom wants him to move back into her home. But he prefers the freer life. Stewie lives in an unofficial homeless camp. I asked if he was looking for a job.

“I can't work because of a disability.”

“What kind of disability?”

“Mental.” I thought of him slapping sign posts with his cardboard sign.

“I think that stores like WalMart accept people with treated metal disorders.”

“Yeah, but they cut a check. The Feds know about it and withhold money. I can make more money doing this.”


Matt and Katie (#758) 01-12-15

It was late morning that I strolled through a market in Bradenton. Matt's hair immediately caught my eye, as they slowly walked my way. It was high overcast and no shadows were evident, so I figured that light would be soft enough where we stood. I was wrong.

As I explained to the two of them, “... and my job is to meet 100 people I don't know...”, and Matt cut me off. “I'm one of them.” Needless to say, I immediately liked Matt. Matt is from Vermont, and moved to Bradenton 13 years ago. He works for a company detailing boats, and he'd like to strike out on his own. Katie is from Bradenton and went to Manatee High School. I asked Katie, “Is he getting you to detail boats?” Laughing, she said “Not a chance.”

As I said, the light was suboptimal. I paid the price with more post processing than I like.


Justin (#757) 01-11-15

Justin is from Seattle, having moved to Sarasota 1 ½ years ago. His girlfriend relocated to Sarasota with their son, so Justin followed to stay close to his son. About a month ago, I met a stranger with the exact same scenario.

Actually, Justin likes Seattle better. The social scene is more active, Sarasota is more sleepy. He is trained in computer science, but if he wanted to work in that field, he'd have to commute to Tampa, about 50 miles away. So instead, he works at Micheal’s on East, an upscale restaurant about three miles away. There he could walk to work, but prefers a bicycle instead. In Seattle, numerous large IT companies were with walking distance of his home.


Cleo (#756) 01-10-15

Looking for a 'new' jacket, I entered one of America's treasures, a Goodwill store. A lady immediately greeted me, “Welcome to Goodwill.” It seems that WalMart has institutionalized the 'greeter.' As I left with my contraband, she smiled and said, “Have a good day!”. I went to the car to drop off the jacket and get my camera.

When I reentered the store, she looked surprised. When I explained the project and asked to meet and photograph her, Cleo immediately agreed, but the smile vanished. She became all business. I asked if she could step outside for a minute, and she agreed. As we took a few steps she said, “excuse me..., Welcome to Goodwill” to an entering customer. I got a few shots immediately outside the front door; she suddenly turned around toward an approaching customer, “Welcome to Goodwill.” Cleo takes her job seriously.

She is from Asheville, but was not interested in talking about herself. The more I talked, the more suspicious looking she got. I showed her the image on the LCD. She didn't look particularly pleased when she said, “The camera sees what it sees.” I asked if she wanted me to get another shot, perhaps with her smiling. “Don't matter. The camera sees what it sees.”