Christopher was sitting on a bench in downtown Tampa, FL. He was happy to be photographed and crushed out his cigarette first. Originally from California, he graduated from local King High School, and works at adjacent Holy Hog Barbeque. Recently this location was a Quiznos sandwich shop, but he did not work there.
While we spoke, a woman in an apron came into the restaurant doorway and yelled, “Christopher, do you still work here, or you a photography model now?” He sheepishly smiled and scurried inside. As I left, I saw Christopher working the business end of a broom.
I saw Devi sitting with previous (Flickr) stranger #441, Jeff, . I asked Jeff if he'd introduce me to his friend. Of course, I first misunderstood and thought she was Debbie. No, Devi.
She left Maryland five years ago to come to Florida. I asked how long she had known Jeff. He piped up and said over a year. Devi rolled her eyes and said, “Too Long.” I said that this sounds like the old line, “We've been married 30 wonderful years, 36 in all.” They chuckled.
Devi is a pharmacist by training. She owns Comfort IV Therapy, and provides infusion therapy in the patient's home. Her site is HERE. She provides patients to remain at home during chemotherapy, intravenous nutritional therapy, and a host of services that required hospitalization in the past.
Emanuel was reading a book on a bench, in front of the courthouse in Bradenton, FL. He wore a plastic helmet, which made me think that he might be a construction worker on break. When I approached him, Emanuel was affable and was happy to be photographed. The concept of 100 Strangers did not interest him, however; he was doing this as a favor.
The book that he was reading was about abnormal psychology. It looked like heavy reading, and Emanuel was making extensive notations in the margins. He said, “I'm not crazy or nothin'”, with a grin. Someone obtained legal possession of his house, and he was researching how to get it back. Emanuel is confident that he will gain repossession.
I asked if he worked around the courthouse. He laughed, shaking his head 'no', and showed me a tag on a chain around his neck. It had his name, and the words “Open Door.” Open door is a resource center for the homeless. Read about it HERE. A wonderfully altruistic concept, but notice the restricted hours: 8AM – 2PM, Mondays through Fridays.
Sitting at an outdoor table, Christina and Kim were taking photos of each other with their cellphones. Obviously they were in the photographic mood, so I made my move. They were very agreeable, but a little wary of an old guy with a camera and an unusual hobby.
Christina is from Boston, with only the slightest hint of an accent. She actually prefers Boston to Florida, and I suspect that her residency here will be short lived. She works at the Longboat Key club, a very tony establishment.
Kim works two jobs, an unlikely combination. She is a Certified Nurse assistant, and does private duty nursing, often in the two local hospitals. Her other job (drum roll...) is making sandwiches at a local Subway sandwich shop. This seems like a sad waste of talent to me, but what do I know?
Both of them liked their images. Neither of them wanted copies. That pretty well puts me in my place. Again.
Another photographer and I saw Bill sipping a cup of Joe. His hat and beard made him look interesting, and we were not disappointed. Bill had no reservations about being photographed, or being interviewed as a Stranger.
On the contrary, Bill spoke passionately for 20 minutes, about everything, and so fast that I could not write it down. He recited all of the reasons that our society and government has crumbled, with numbers and strong opinions to back it all up. He has lived virtually everywhere. Bill and his son will soon move to South America. When I asked which country he shrugged and said, “We'll find one.” The implication was that living in ANY South American country would be better than living in the U.S.
When he stood, an obvious orthopedic boot was on his left foot. This was the result of an auto accident, where Bill's car was hit by a drunk driver. Hopefully there are no drunk drivers in South America.
I rested (photography is so tough) on an outdoor bench, when Debra came along furiously photographing with a full frame Canon. She is originally from Quebec, but most recently from Ontario. She has only four more days visiting Sarasota. “I just get pictures of angles and light formations that I like.
When she saw my mirrorless Olympus camera, she said that she had considered mirrorless, particularly Fuji. She got cold feet and backed out. I told her that I have a friend with a full frame Canon and a Canon mirrorless backup. I assume that the menu systems share common logic and this might be the way to go.
She asked where U.S. 301 was. I pointed east and said that was six or eight blocks. She thanked me and strode off as if it were 100 yards.
Dr. Roy Truby, Ed D., has been commissioner of Education in Idaho and West Virginia. And I met him at my favorite outdoor bar, smoking his weekly cigar. It is my favorite bar for photography, not imbibing. It seemed like an unlikely place to meet an educator.
Roy also served as superintendent of Schools in a region of South Carolina including Greenville. I told him that years ago, the Superintendent of Schools in Lee County (Ft. Myers) was murdered in his office bu a disgruntled parent. Roy nodded knowingly. His area in South Carolina included Bob Jones University (EXTREMELY conservative) and the French-owned Michelin factory, with a decidedly liberal flavor. When the School Board had to formulate a sex education policy, Roy occasionally had police protection. More about Roy is HERE.
I forget how we segued into his son, but he told me to Google Mark Truby. I did. He's the Vice President of Ford Motor Company Europe. Executives in Europe have perks not available in America. Besides a substantial salary (no doubt with stock options), he gets a palatial house with domestic help, cars (no surprise) a virtually unlimited travel budget, etc. His living quarters are free and he still owns his two homes in Detroit – not sure how great that is. More about Mark Truby is HERE.
Kaleen and Heather were sitting on the grass in a downtown park. It was late afternoon. I seldom photograph in that location because the sunlight is harsh, but at this time of day, it seemed useable. Both were anxious to be photographed, but reticent to say much more. I hope that I spelled Kaleen correctly, I forget if there is a 'Y' or not. Heather was playing a guitar. She is a Venice High School graduate, but 'several' years after me.
Heather said that the light should be good for portraits, and pointed to a tall bright building that was reflecting light. I said, “Whoa, most people wouldn't notice that.” She has photographed a couple of friend's weddings, “Very high stress.” :-)
Both liked their images and took my card. They might ask for the photos after they see them online.
During an art festival, I walked along the sidewalk 30 feet from the booths. I saw John sitting on a mobility scooter looking very contented, with a cool hat. I introduced myself and complemented him on the hat. He was happy to be included in 100 Strangers.
I figured out why he was so contented. His wife, Linda, was shopping in an adjacent nic nac store, and he didn't have to participate. I can imagine the conversation; “Gee Honey, I'd LOVE to shop with you in that store, but I just can't maneuver this scooter safely.” Yeah, that's what I'd do.
When Linda appeared she was very affable and willing to be photographed too. They have lived life backwards. They were full time residents of Venice, FL, but now live “up north” for part of the year. They're snowbirds. Grandchildren caused the change. As the children are in the military, they move around. John and Linda had to think about Christmas, “Oh yeah, we'll see them this year!”
We had the recurring conversation about our generation using nicknames, while the younger generation go by the full given name. “Yep, our grandson is Anthony, not Tony.”
I am posting this one a little out of order as it has to do with Veteran's Day. About 30 minutes before a Veteran's Day parade was about to begin, Earl and Mary pulled up on a Honda motorcycle. Mary wore a helmet, but Earl wore a red soft hat, sort of like a beret, and a leather vest with several patches. I Googled Veteran's hats and found nothing like it. Anyway, Earl looked pretty cool.
So I walked out to the side of the street and told him so. He was OK with 100 Strangers, but I saw no hint of a smile and his affect was sort of flat.
I said that I supposed that he was a Veteran. He said no, but that his son was and was killed in Afghanistan in 2008 – he pointed to a “Fallen But Not Forgotten” patch on his chest.
I was momentarily stunned, and my faux chattiness instantly evaporated. I mumbled something like “So sorry” as Earl waved dismissively and said, “That's just the way it is.” I offered breakfast, or coffee and a pastry but he said no; at least I got a momentary smile.
After he walked away to some buddies, I made small talk with Mary, who is the fallen soldier's stepmother. I was so taken by gravity the moment that this polite banter seems meaningless.
Some would keep the image in color, to showcase the hat. I feel that color detracts from the hardship that God and six years have etched into that face.
“Often the faces speak what words can never say”, Carl Sandberg.
I sat on a bench, camera in lap, doing nothing. Out of the blue, Eric was asking me about the camera. He has cameras by Olympus, Leica, and Nikon – a gear junkie. I gave him a quick tour of the camera, and my photostream on the phone. It is amazing how often the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (who got paid to name that?) has drawn comments leading to a stranger encounter.
When I explained 100 Strangers to Eric, he was interested and 'all in.' Eric is a professional photographer who spent 24 years in Europe, primarily doing fashion photography. In Sarasota, he is mainly into real estate and associated photography. Eric showed me an image on his phone, a high contrast B&W – my kind of stuff! His site is HERE.
We exchanged cards and I sent him this image. He liked it and we are hopeful to meet for lunch soon.