Deborah (#795) 03-02-15

I have seen a lady multiple times, walking downtown. Her hair color and length reminds me of a friend named Deborah. Other than the hair and general size, there is no resemblance. Definitely no facial resemblance, none. They don't look alike, yet one always reminds me of the other. Weird.

So one day this lady had the audacity to be sitting in front of “MY” coffee shop, so a portrait request was in order. She was reserved, pleasant enough, but not chatty. Her name is Deborah. Quite a coincidence! Deborah is not a rare name, but not that common either. This Deborah was originally from Miami and has lived in Sarasota since the 50s. She is a self employed seamstress. Now when I see her, the two Deborahs REALLY come to mind.


Weylan and Ann Marie (#795) 03-01-15

Weylan and Ann Marie were seated undercover, in Zs restaurant. Nice light, so I had to meet them. And Weylan's tattoos were rather distinctive. If I had to guess Weylan's occupation, RN at a local hospital would be down on the list. Far down. But that is him, and he has to cover up well before appearing at work.

Ann Marie is a Behavioral Specialist at an alternative school. She works with troubled students who have been expelled from traditional schools.

They are both from Philadelphia. They like the 100 Strangers project, but had no interest in obtaining copies of the images.


Five (#794) 02-28-15

I have seen this lady inside the coffee shop many times. I vowed that when I saw her outside, I would ask for a portrait. But I never saw her outside. So one day, as I entered, she was getting up from a seat by the door; she was heading for more coffee. I waited for her to return. I planned to meet her and ask her to step outside. When she came back, I made my ask with these words, “I have made a million of portraits right outside...”, and then she cut me off. With an indignant look and hands on her hips, she said “What? You've made a million portraits and never made one of ME?” Oh, this was going to be good.

I introduced myself by name and held my hand out. She shook it and gave her name as Five.


“Yeah, Five”

“That's your name?”

“Yeah. Don't you understand Five?”

“Uh, I guess.”

She turned to the woman behind the counter; “Laura, isn't Five my name?”

Laura shrugged and pointed, “She's Number Five.”

Five is the fifth of nine children. When she came home from school, her daddy would say, “Well, number five is still alive.” So she's Five.

Number Five went to the University of South Florida four years after me. She had an eclectic career, but spent a lot of it as a school teacher of grammar. She has no children of her own. As a young woman, she had uterine fibroids, a large problem in the African American community. This required a hysterectomy, but Number Five says that she was 'spayed'.

Now she volunteers as a teacher at the Precious Jewels Academy in Newtown, an African American, and troubled neighborhood. The private school was founded by a retired educator who opened it up for troubled, at risk kids from a nearby housing project. Ironically, just yesterday the local newspaper had a human interest story about the academy. It is inspirational.

Five has been living in the same apartment for several years, but the rent goes up and up. She is ready to move. Five was about to catch a bus to check out a possible new residence, and then another bus home. I offered to drive her. It was to a neighborhood plagued by many motels housing prostitutes. After a police crackdown, many properties were purchased by developers who upgraded the motels into permanent apartments. An affable Brit named Toby was at the front desk (he refused the opportunity to be photographed :-( ). The outside looked nice and the price was right, so Five put her name on a list for occupancy. Toby said that he 'couldn't' call her, that she would have to call daily to check. It struck me odd that he would not call, and that Five didn't check out the interior of an apartment.

A few days later she informed me that all was not as it seemed. Five called Toby who said that a unit was available for her. But upon arrival, he was hostile and uncooperative – he was suddenly not sure that he would have an apartment for her. Confused at his change in demeanor, she met another potential renter outside. Apparently the apartments were only minimally improved inside; vestiges of previous history remained. And she confirmed that Toby was unpleasant and uncooperative. Five feels lucky that she didn't sign a lease, and explains Toby's original nice behavior on my being present.

Life is tough.


Xavier (#793) 02-27-15

Xavier was manning a booth at the Farmer's Market. He works at Mangia Gourmet Restaurant in Gulfport, 40 miles north. I remember seeing it, almost right on the bay. I told him that we've been there several times, and like the funkiness. At Mangia, employees wear tie dyed shirts. We agreed that Gulfport is a throwback to the 60s, with wall air conditioners and terrazzo floors.

Xavier was wearing a Queens College shirt. He did not go there, but his brother did. He is now an investment banker and in two years will be making nearly $500,000. There is no labor, but a lot of stress.

Xavier prefers wearing tie dyed shirts to work.


Samuel (#792) 02-26-15

A young man wearing a stylish hat walked toward me, and I was ready. Samuel was very quiet and reserved, but was happy to be included in the project. He is a graduate of the dreaded Florida State University; dreaded if you are a University of Florida Gator. Samuel is 23 years old and recently moved to the area, from Los Angeles.

He now works for the Sarasota Film Festival, a 10 day event each April.

His work largely revolves around youth programs, getting high school students into film making.

Samuel was very interested in how I go about meeting and photographing people. He suggested making a short film of me at work. Maybe I'll need an agent! :-) If that were to happen, it would probably be during the summer. I'll keep my fingers crossed...


Leyana (#791) 02-25-15

While sitting outdoors sipping a cup of Joe, I saw two stylish young ladies across the street, outside of the Blue Owl Tavern and Bar. One wore a bandanna and movie-star style sunglasses, and the other had green hair. I thought that it might be dyed. The light is nice in the alcove in which they were sitting, so I left my half empty cup and headed across the street. I was simultaneously trying to avoid being run over and being sure that no overzealous busperson removed my coffee.

As I addressed them the movie star said, “Oh, you've photographed me before, and we're Facebook friends”. I hate it when that happens! When she removed her bandanna and sunglasses, I recognized her as Alaina, stranger #428

She realized that she looked different and was cool about it.

So I turned to Leyana. She moved to SW Florida two years ago, from New Jersey. It was just too expensive to live there. So She got a job at Trader Joe's in Sarasota, and worked with Alaina and Vince, stranger #445 But sarasota was too sleepy for Leyane, so she moved to St. Petersburg and works at Trader Joe's there, managing the flower section. She says that the flowers are cheap, and second to none. Leyana doesn't know how TJ's can get astromerica from Peru and roses from Columbia, fresh, and sell them so cheaply.

Since photographing Alaina, she has quit TJ's and started her own company, Fresh Farmer. Leyane came for lunch, and to help Alaina plan product lines. She loved the 100 Strangers and gave me a 'high five.' This was my first stranger high five, a couple of days later I would get my second.


Kristen (#790) 02-24-15

Kristen was sitting outside of the coffee shop. This winter has been merciful, seldom has outdoor seating been out of the question. Anyway, she was working on a laptop, and I do mean working. She was affable, and happy to be included in the project.

Kristen attended Lakewood Ranch High School, about 6 miles north. She was a basketball athlete and got a scholarship to a small college in High point, NC. She now works for Comcast, in the advertizing department – that's the work that she was doing on her laptop. I admitted that Comcast is not my favorite company. She doesn't like the service either, but they treat their employees well. Kristen said that Comcast has grown too quickly, and customer service has not kept up. Amen. But they are implementing a program attempting to have all calls answered by a real person – immediately. Refreshing.

Kristen informed me that she does not look good in pictures. Yawn. So I took a few of this smiley face. Then I said, "I'm going to move to the side a little", but she put her hand up, "That's all. That's all you get."

And that's all I got.


T and Kathleen (#789) 02-23-15

They were sitting in the usual place, in front of the coffee shop. I LOVE this place! The light is always nice. And so were they. The problem is that I can't read my own writing. I dutifully took (sketchy) notes, but I cannot for the life of me read one of the names. Tara? Tanya? For now, she is just T.

Kathleen, the mom, is a nurse at Memorial hospital. She kept looking at T and saying, “Isn't she beautiful?” Who am I to argue. T graduated from Sarasota High School in 2006. She loves this project. T looked at some images on my phone and wanted my card. I got her e-mail address and will send her images.

When I realized that I could not read T's name, I e-mailed her and asked – no response. I hope that she is not miffed about this.


P.S. Whoa, I just got lucky for a change. I started to type in the e-mail address so that I could send the images, and I was prompted with her address and “Tara.” Tara it is!

Jess (#788) 02-22-15

He insisted on being called Jess Who? I know his last name, but he prefers this moniker. Who am I to argue? Mr. Who? Was sitting behind a bush; it blocked the light, and normally I would expect unacceptable lighting. But a little sunlight crept through and I liked the backlight. Mea culpa – I did have to brighten the face a bit in processing, more than I usually like to do.

While I asked, he held up a finger as to say, "wait." Suddenly he turned and spit tobacco juice into the bush. He still had a wad in his cheek. We were in front of Patrick's Restaurant – Jess said that he was waiting to get a glass of water, but Patrick's didn't open for another hour. I'm sure that the Patrick's staff loves to serve glasses of water.

He liked the pic and gave me his e-mail address. Then he said that he'd like to see me ask other strangers, so he followed me for half a block. We met a friend (former stranger) with a German Shepard, and Jess posed with the dog. Then, suddenly, he was gone. I looked up and down the streets, but he vanished. It was a strange encounter. He kept me a bit off balance.


Alexandra and Amber (#787) 02-21-15

The Farmer's Market is packed with people in the winter, our “season.” Lots of interesting looking people, but the light and busy backgrounds are wanting. But when I spotted Alexandra's hat slightly above the crowd (she's fairly tall) I knew that it was worth a try.

I followed Alexandra and Amber across the street. If they read this, they might categorize me as a stalker. They stopped at a candle vendor and began examining candles in earnest. So what the heck, I interrupted them and 'popped the question'. I said that I'd wait until the finished candle shopping. They agreed, and I began looking for a nearby acceptable location.

They gladly moved a few yards into shade and I got the shots. Both were born, and went to high school, in Sarasota. I asked, “Sarasota High?”, and they responded almost in unison, “Oh God no!' They attended rival Riverview High. Alexandra went on to the University of Central Florida, in Orlando. Now she is an elementary school teacher.

Amber went to the University of South Florida, in Tampa, and is a recent graduate of the Police Academy. She is waiting for a job. I was unaware that one had to attend the academy with no guarantee of a job after graduation. Seems weird.


Omar and Bryan (#786) 02-20-15

Omar and Bryan were consuming life-saving pastries and joking. The easy body language and camaraderie made me wistful. Good friends aren't easy to come by, but these two seemed to have it. When I approached them, each was happy to help and spent most of the time kidding and laughing.


I asked them if they were from Sarasota, and each said yes?

"Did you go to Sarasota High School?"

Omar: "Yeah."

Bryan: "God no, I went to Riverview." (laugh)

Me: "Did you know each other as rivals in high school?"

Bryan: :No, we just know each other now as rivals." (laugh)


Omar went on to the State College of Florida and happened to take one course in Film Production. After graduation, he showed a Film Production course project to an official at a local cable TV station, Sarasota News Network (SNN). He was hired and received lots of on job training. Now he is a staff photojournalist at SNN. Neat!

Bryan is a musician and works in music production. He plays eight instruments. He listed them off, and I said (tongue in cheek) "What, no flute?" He responded, "Oh, I could play the flute too."

Each liked their photos, so I sent them by e-mail. Omar prefers the smiley face.


Nina (#785) 02-19-15

I was shelf surfing in a Mom and Pop bookstore when I spotted Nina. The store was relatively dark, and her fair complexion and blond hair jumped out. Photographing in the store was out of the question, and feeling somewhat lazy, I didn't make a move as she left the store with an older couple.

But as I was about to leave, she was standing near the sidewalk curb, so I immediately approached her and introduced the project. She seemed pleased and spoke with a delightful German accent. Nina spends half of her time in her native Berlin, and the other half in Manhattan. She is an art broker and sells art in each location. Nina is an artist, working in several mediums, including photography.

Then suddenly the older couple came up and she said that she had to leave with her in-laws. I was very disappointed. Nina was eager to tell her story, and I did not realize that we were under a time constraint.


Bruce (#784) 02-18-15

Eating a pastry with his coffee, Bruce made a striking image. Curly blonde hair and a beige sport jacket set him apart from the usual patrons. And I told him so as I explained the project. He smiled, and immediately 'got it'. Bruce is a film actor in New York and showed me images of performances on his phone. His expression when playing a cop made me think, “I wouldn't want to piss off THAT guy.” He said that he was playing a gritty cop, the Sam Spade type. These websites are illustrative”:

Bruce is checking out the area. He likes Sarasota, but it's a little 'sleepy.' He lives next to Columbia University, and compared to New York, everywhere is sleepy. “Yeah, it's hard to compare New York to anything but itself.”

While shooting, I tried to get my usual look with the subject making eye contact. As the consummate pro, he had his own ideas, and glanced to the side. Using burst mode I got one accidental image looking at me. I saw him a couple of days later and he mentioned how important it was to get the look “doing something”, not just staring ahead. Hmmm, makes me think.

A few years ago, Michelle Tricca, a Naples FL professional photographer, captured a large series of portraits of locals making eye contact, and published them without captions. The local newspaper had an article about this and published two photos: one was a man who owned a ten million dollar house on the Gulf, the other cleaned his pool. It was impossible to tell who was who. I thought that this was a powerful message and have always tried to take an egalitarian approach, making us all equal. The poorest, mentally challenged person is totally equal for at least 1/100 of a second in my series. Bruce's comments bother me – maybe I'm missing something by not capturing other expressions.


Bob (#783) 02-17-15

Bob was sitting in the outdoor, covered area, of Smokin' Joe's Bar. When in the area (a lot) I always check out this spot – this seat. The light is always good. Bob was relaxed and chatty. He lived in Central Islip, Long Island, for 10 years. As a youngster, I lived about three miles away.

He relocated to Chicago, becoming a carpenter. At age 32 he started his own construction business. Over many years, the firm grew to 500 employees, and during the recent recession, it dwindled to 10. Now it's back to 50. Bob looked pained as he recounted all the good hard working men that he had to lay off. He still owns the business.

The layoffs segued into a discussion about the homeless in Sarasota. He shook his hear recounting how men that lost construction jobs could be on the streets like this. He first got a house in Sarasota in 1989, but used it little. Until six years ago, that is. Then he began living six months in Chicago and six in Sarasota. We passed on the street yesterday and I got a hearty, “Hi, Bob.”


Shane and A******* (#782) 02-16-15

I watched A******* enter the coffee shop. She had long, straight hair and wore an ankle length white dress. I had to meet her. A few minutes later she emerged with Shane, and each had a handful of food. I waited until they were settled and ensconced in their chairs before making my move.

Shane was immediately interested, while A******* was a bit more cautious. Shane was interested in my Olympus camera. He recently purchased a Canon 6D, full frame DSLR, but was also interested in smaller gear. I showed him the OM-D E-M5 and had him look “through” the digital viewfinder. He immediately saw the difference between it and an optical viewfinder. He uses Lightroom and looks forward to learning how to make local adjustments.

A******* looked uneasy. I asked if Shane photographed her and her (large) eyes. She said, not much. She had done some modeling in the past, but was still quite shy and private. She teaches 2nd grade. A******* insisted that Shane be photographed first. As soon as I got the first click of A*******, I knew that the shot was a winner. I gave each of them a card.

The next morning I got an e-mail from A*******. She said that she was a very private person, and asked that I not post her image anywhere. Drat! I immediately processed the image and loved it. I sent it to her and said that she and Shane should like it, and to please reconsider her request. But I assured her that I would not post it without permission.

I never got it. :-(


Matthew and Katheryn (#781) 02-15-15

They were sitting outside the coffee shop, but with a twist; their suitcases were next to them. Matthew and Katheryn were killing time, waiting to go to the airport. They were flying home to Atlanta, a destination clearly within driving distance.

Matthew and Katheryn met in college, at Furman University. There is an inherent conflict between Atlanta and Furman University; Furman is largely funded by Pepsi Cola, while Atlanta is a Coke town. Matthew said, “Oh, I had to drink Pepsi for a few years, but I was forgiven.” He was born in Atlanta, but has zero southern accent. Katheryn was originally from Jacksonville, and likewise, has no southern dialect. She works for Raymond James, and he works in financial planning for Northwest Mutual Life.


Kevin (#780) 02-14-15

Kevin was sitting with his two dogs, puppies actually, in front of whole foods. He had no reservations about being photographed, but was no conversationalist.

First the dogs: they were pit bull puppies. I could not get even one to look at me for a picture - definitely not two. One had the thick-faced pit bull look and was named Spike. Sounds good. The other had an unusually thin face for a pit bull, and was named Bambi. Whaaa? Bambi? Brings to mint the old joke:

What has 4 legs and 1 arm?

A pit bull, of course.

Kevin is from Cincinnati and has lived in Sarasota for 18 years. He is an occupational therapist and works at Manor Care, a local Skilled Nursing Facility. Encouraging conversation was a challenge.

“What's the best thing about having pit bulls?”




Austin (#789) 02-13-15

Austin is from Bellingham, WA, and is a left coastie by heart. But he came east to attend New College in Sarasota. As I learned from previous strangers, New College has an eclectic approach to education, in which standard grades are not given. Austin is a senior majoring in economics. Actually, there are a couple of adjectives to his brand of economics, but alas, I did not write them down. :-(

Austin has passed the first two rounds of hurdles on the way to a Fulbright Scholarship. Hopefully, next year he will be studying at Columbia University. If not, he plans to start his own company somewhere on the west coast.

He was intrigued by the 100 Strangers group. Austin asked if I was familiar with Jia Jiang's Rejection Therapy project. I am, and here it is; it is informative and entertaining.


Annie and J.R. (788) 02-12-15

I saw then eating lunch and Annie looked familiar. Fortunately they were happy to be photographed. Annie explained it – she is a dockhand at Marina Jack, at the foot of Main Street. I have seen her tying up boats. When I showed her the pic, she said, “Yep, I knew it. My eyes are asleep. (laugh).”

J.R. was also a laugher – they were having a good time. He lives on a Broward Yacht, at the “T” head of a dock. T heads are reserved for the largest yachts. No wonder they laugh. The first pic that I showed him had his eyes closed (laugh!). The both approved of the images, but neither wanted a copy.

We talked boats for a while and I finally told them what we own.

“Oh, nice!”

“Want to buy it?”



Terry (#787) 02-11-15

Terry is originally from Kentucky, but spent 10 years all over Florida in the construction industry. He is now disabled and uses a cane. He has back pain that shoots into his legs. The very next day Terry was to have surgery for permanent placement of a 'pain pacemaker.' I asked if he was scared. He was not, because he had a temporary unit for trial, and it worked.

For the trail, a catheter with electrodes was inserted into the spinal canal. He held a device that controlled the frequency of electrical pulses. Sure enough, he was able to find the right frequency, and got great relief. Now a permanent device will give him remote control of the frequency. Living better electronically.

As if that weren't enough, his left pupil is permanently dilated. Terry was “Jumped” by two hoods who stole his bike, and ruined his eye in the process.

I showed Terry his image on the LCD. He liked it!

“Wow, ain't that a handsome dude!”

“Would you like me to e-mail the image to you?”

“Naw, don't have e-mail. I'm a computer turd. Not a nerd, a turd.”