Ava (#647) 09-17-14

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.

Ava is originally from Hawaii, but moved here five years ago because of her parents. She refers Hawaii, but it would be difficult to move back for financial reasons.

I admire Ava. She is a beautiful woman and knows that she is not 21 and has a few wrinkles. She knows who she is, and is “comfortable in her own skin.” Refreshing.


Keepa (#646) 09-16-14

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.


Alex (#645) 09-15-14

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!”


Levi (#644) 09-13-14

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.


Joel and the Ham (#643) 09-12-14

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.


Wanda (#642) 09-10-14

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.


Paula and Dan(#641) 09-06-14

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.”

Lick 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.


Vernon (#640) 09-04-14

As I walked by a Whole Foods store, Vernon slowly passed on his bicycle. As he passed, I could “feel” him turn around, and I instinctively knew that I was about to be scammed. Vernon said, “Hi, I have a proposition for you” (Why was I not surprised). “I bet that you don't know which state has the most rain each year. If you guess wrong, you give me a dollar.” I said, “I have a better proposition.” I showed him a couple more and explained 100 Strangers. Vernon was delighted to participate.

I guessed Hawaii, as one side of the islands gets a huge amount of rain. Vernon looked at me like I was an idiot, and said to guess again. My second choice was Alaska. No again, Vernon was born in Seattle, and he assured me that Washington has the most. I later Googled this – it's Hawaii. He lived in Seattle until 17, and then moved to Florida. Vernon is 42.

We shook hands and I almost dropped to my knees, he has a grip like a vise. I told him so, and he smiled and flexed. He said that the homeless life is tough, and you have to be ready to defend yourself. One look at his lip and I could not disagree. Vernon spends most nights under awnings or in high rise parking lots. Sounds like fun.


Edline (#639) 09-01-14

Edline is from Delray Beach, but is in Sarasota attending New College. She is a Junior, majoring in Biology. I asked what she wanted to do after college. Edline would like to go to Medical School.

I told her that I am a retired Pathologist. Her eyebrows shot up as she said, “Oh, cool!” I said that being a Pathologist was cool, but being a retired pathologist is more cool.


Jeff (#638) 08-31-14

Jeff was sitting in front of Starbucks, having a smoke. When I asked him for a portrait, he said sure, and that this had happened to him before. Years ago in Santa Fe, MN, a photographer approached him at 4AM for a portrait, a class assignment. I assured Jeff that I would NEVER approach strangers at 4AM!

He has a degree from Cornell, but decided to work as a Massage Therapist in Santa FE. Work was not easy to come by because of reverse sexual discrimination. Women are afraid of male therapists, and men definitely don't want another man. I said “Yeah, I can see that.” Nevertheless, he did this for seven years and later moved to Sweden. There he worked on large power lines on tall towers. Jeff had to climb 350 foot towers with 50 lbs. Of gear on his back. Eventually he developed a knee injury and wound back up in the States.

Jeff has decided to return to Massage Therapy (easier on the knees) and is currently jumping through hoops to get a Florida license. He doesn't need to take any more exams, just complete applications and pay fees.


Robin (#637) 08-29-14

I had lunch in one of my favorite breakfast/lunch spots, “First Watch”. Robin showed me to my seat and quickly brought some coffee. One minute later she took my order, and five minutes later brought the food (there were several employees present). When I went to the register to pay, no one was there. Immediately Robin appeared and made the change. I said, “You're a one man band.” “Yep, I do t all.”

Then she asked what I liked to photograph. “People”, I said.

“Oh, like you meet people in certain places for professional portraits?”

“No, my hobby is to meet people who I've never seen before and ask for a portrait. Can I meet you and take your picture?”


She has lived in Sarasota for 14 years and worked at First Watch for a year and a half. Already a line was forming behind me, so I had to work quickly. So quickly that I neglected to raise my ISO from the base 200. The resulting shutter speed was only 1/13 sec. The eyes are not as sharp as I like, but not bad for such a slow shutter speed with an effective focal length of 90mm. This is totally to the Olympus in-camera stabilization, and not my 66 year old hands.


Nick and Meg (#636) 08-28-14

Due to a personal issue, I had not held a camera for over two months. So meeting Nick and Meg was a big deal for me. I saw them from across the street. They were drinking ice coffee (I think) and their glasses were almost full, so I was confident that they would be there for a few minutes.

When I approached, both were amused and more than happy to be photographer. Nick was originally from Bonita Springs (100 miles south) and now lives in Sarasota. He works for a nearby tech company. Meg was originally from Kansas, but has lived in Sarasota for most of her life. She graduated from nearby Venice High School, same as me. I said, “Gee, I don't quite remember you. What year did you graduate?” it was 2000. I snapped my fingers and said “Darn, I JUST missed you. I graduated in 1964.” We all got a laugh out of that.

Nick said, “The project sounds interesting. You never know who you'll meet.”



Laura and John (#635) 08-27-14

I saw them from a distance, walking away from me. They were holding hands, and John was carrying a bouquet of roses. I picked up my pace, walking double-time to catch up. Finally they paused at a storefront, giving me time to close the distance.

When I asked, they seemed both amused and flattered, there was no hesitation. They both graduated from Venice High School (20 miles south), and now live in nearby Lakewood Ranch. John works for The Observer, a local newspaper.

As usual, I asked Laura not to smile for the camera, but after two attempts she genuinely did not like the results. So I relented. John just has a natural more serious look.

I pointed to John's roses and said, “Boy, you must have done something bad.” He said no, they had done something good. Laura and John had just had wedding pictures taken!

Congratulations, and thank you for allowing me to photograph you for the 100 Strangers Flickr group.


Austin (#634) 08-25-14

Austin was born in Ft. Lauderdale, and graduated from high school in Broward County. His father was from Quebec, and was part of a large migration of French Canadians to settle in southeast Florida in the 1950s.

Austin now lives in Hollywood Fl, but had lived in nearby Venice for one year. He lived in a condo with a great pool. He and his friends had great fun “pissing off the old folks”. Austin is now following his father's footsteps, working in the construction industry.

Thank you, Austin, for allowing me to photograph you for the 100 Strangers Flickr group.


Kate (#633) 08-15-14

Kate was in charge of an olive oil concession. She was born in California, but raised in Sarasota. Kate now attends the Sarasota Military Academy. She was interested in the 100 Strangers project and took my card. In return, she gave me her card, as she is interested in graphic design. See it HERE.

I asked what was the worst thing that had happened recently. She said that the day before, her car had been rear-ended. Well, that IS bad! But the car is still drivable.

It amazes me how many businesses are centered around olive oil. I asked how she could sell enough. Well, this was Mazzone Olive Oil, the olives grown in a specific grove in Italy: See it HERE. Kate assured me that it is very popular with salads and breads, especially when seasoned with Tuscan Basil. So, I tried some. I liked it and bought a bottle. Confession: I like olive oil, but am far from a connoisseur.

After dutifully assuring me that she was not photogenic, Kate allowed the portrait.


Kento (#622) 08-10-14

I paid a visit to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, in Tampa. See it HERE. Kento was manning the front desk. His appearance immediately interested me and I let him know. He had no reservation about being photographed.

Kento was born in Japan and came to the U.S. During elementary school. He has no accent – none. Kento is now a junior at the nearby University of South Florida, majoring in photography. Although keeping his options open, Kento is drawn to fashion photography.

I said that with my interest in portraiture and his in fashion photography, we had a natural common hero, Richard Avedon. Kento had heard of Avedon just the previous month, and was currently reading about him.


Kabrena (#621) 08-08-14

Kabrana's hat caught my eye, and I followed her through a crowd for a while. Finally we came to a relatively unpopulated spot that hat acceptable (not great) light and background. I approached her and said that her hat had panache. “Panache, I LIKE that!”, she replied.


Kabrena was very friendly and outgoing. She was born in Sarasota and graduated from Booker High School, which specializes in visual and performing arts. Kabrena majored in dance. She graduated from the University of Florida and moved to New Orleans. But she returned to Sarasota two years ago and is about to begin a Masters Program in Speech Pathology.


Joe and Alex (#620) 06-13-14

Actually there is no Alex, but there was originally. As I walked on a main street, the sidewalk went through outdoor seating for a restaurant. Joe and Alex were eating, and their body language suggested that they were having a good time. I sometimes approach people outside of a coffee shop, or ice cream parlor, but I have not stopped people from eating a full meal at a restaurant. Besides bad manners, I am afraid that the proprietor will think that I am harassing patrons. Maybe I would be.

But a few minutes later, they were on a bench about 100 yards away. So I met them and made my request. Joe was very outgoing and animated – he was all for being photographed. Alex (female) was pleasant, but quiet and reserved. I showed her the images on my cell phone and she seemed interested. Joe said, “I'll go first.” I positioned him in front of an open door and fired away. He was a jokester, no way to get a serious look. Joe studied plastics engineering for two years at Penn State. Now he is saving money so that he can finish his degree at The University of South Florida, or Central Florida.

Then when I turned to Alex, she said that they had to go, as they had a date with her parents. I said, “Not even 30 Seconds?” Joe cut in and said, “We really have to be going.” Apparently Alex gave him some sign (that I had missed) and Joe was protecting her wishes. Darn!


Andrea (#619) 06-12-14

I saw Andrea at a local Farmer's market, not the one that I usually frequent. Her free-spirit gait and Bohemian dress caught my eye. Especially the hat. When I caught up to her, she had no problem with being photographed.

She is originally from Tampa, but went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for a degree in Fine Arts. She has now been in Venice for a year. Andrea's art is graphics and overlying pastels, and is up to eight feet on a side. Her website is interesting (and not always safe for work). The provocative description of her current project gives you an idea.

“Current project: Senior Studio

This past year I have created a variety of projects that deal with the human and it's body, gender, alternate persona, and technology. Savoring the visceral union of meat and metal; relishing the taste of flesh and machine; thirsting for blood and digital consciousness; my work ranges from mythological to metallic camp in its worst form...” Her website is HERE.                 

But to put food on the table, she works at a local high-end Italian restaurant. Andrea was at the market, in part, because her boyfriend had a booth, a headgear company called “Bambooty.” Neat name. I vowed to get his portrait, but he was always swamped with customers and I did not get a chance.

I really liked this image and did more work on the background than usual to make a cohesive (I hope) color palette.


Makena (#618) 06-11-14

Busted! Another portrait of an ice cream shop employee. This time it's in Marco, FL. Makena was as bubbly a personality as you'd ever want to meet. And why not, she had graduated from high school three days earlier!

She attended St. John Neumann High School in nearby Naples. Nearly a year earlier, a friend of her mother suggested St. Mary's College, in Notre Dame, Indiana. How Catholic is that? They had never heard of it, but the more they read, the more they liked. And when Makena visited the school, it was love at first sight. So this fall, off she will go. She wants to do teaching and counseling for disadvantaged students.

Makena loves cats. Her mother volunteers for a group that collects and neuters feral cats in MARCO. Amazingly, we were with a woman who does the same thing, in Naples. Small world.