Jillian and Friends (#875) 05-28-15

Three young ladies were chatting and laughing by my new haunt, Buddy Brew Coffee. Had I met them a mile away, I would want to transport them to exactly where they were sitting: good light and neutral background. Minimal post processing, works for me!

As I explained the project, they immediately 'got it.' Jillian said, “Oh, sort of like 'Humans of New York.'” I said “I wish. I don't have the guts to ask the questions that Brandon Stanton does.” She said that she had his book. So do I.



Well, my desired 'character shots' weren't going to happen. All three are into fashion and are very conscious of posing and glamor. I had my work cut out. The three went to high school together, in nearby Bradenton. Jillian currently lives in Chattanooga and works in a woman clothing store. She stated the name but it meant nothing to me.



Cami has designed a line of woman's clothing. “Oh, is it sold in Jillian's store?” Laughing, “No, that's my next goal. Kelly is 'in transition'. Actually that is a euphemism for unemployed. I prefer 'in transition.' She said that she would like to be a stylist. Cami spoke up and said that Kelly would be perfect, she has a good eye for art and color.



All three liked 100 Strangers and took cards.


Nolan (#874) 05-27-15

I stepped into the coffee shop, Pastry Art, to get a cup of Joe prior to stranger hunting. Pastry Art has had some employee turnover, so there are a few new faces behind the counter. One young fellow commented on my camera – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (it took me a long time to learn that by heart). What kind of camera is that? is it film? etc. So I explained the camera and said, “Guess what I like to photograph?” So a minute later he was obliging me by standing in the doorway while I clicked away.

His name is Nolan.

“Is there a 'D' on the end?”

“No, it is not like Roland.”

Nolan is from Chattanooga and says that the weather there is more mild than you might think. He and a friend took a trip to Oregon, but Nolan would up staying for two years. He worked at a Starbucks at an airport.

“Oh, so it was the same kind of work as here.”

“Yeah, it's that the coffee cost twice as much there.”

He has been in Sarasota for a month and a half, working at Pastry Art the whole time. There is a sign on the door, “Baristas wanted.” Nature of the business I guess.

After several clicks, I showed him the images. For some reason, he likes keeping his mouth open; in most images his mouth was open wider than this. He laughed and said, “Oh Jeez, I look stoned.”

He did.


Nicole (#873) 05-26-15

I saw Nicole at the Farmer's Market, in direct sunlight. I waited a bit as she ambled along and then chose my spot to meet her. There are so many interesting people at the Market, but the backgrounds are all busy and contrasty. There is no good place nearby. So I try to pick a location with acceptable light and be resigned to more post processing than I like.

Nicole was rather surprised when I approached her, but became a 100 Strangers fan over the next couple of minutes. She is from Utica, NY, and did her schooling there. Now she is a Child Protection Officer. She lives in Orlando and commutes to work in Kissimmee.

“Isn't that a rather long commute?”

“I just live with it, the job is worth it.

She often goes to a Farmer's Market in Winter Park, an immediate Orlando neighbor. Nicole likes the Sarasota one better and was glad that she visited for the weekend. She took my card and is interested in getting a copy of the photos.


Louise and Jerry (#872) 05-25-15


Louise and Jerry are Brits. They lived in London and moved to Tampa seven years ago. Louise is retired, a retired housewife. I'm not sure what that means for Jerry. He works for a factory that manufactures “soda pop.” I was not aware that any major soda brands were produced in Tampa. Turns out they aren't. He makes soda for store brands, like Publix. I never knew that store brand soda was produced in separate factories from Coke, Pepsi, etc. Isn't 100 Strangers a great learning experience?

I have been impressed by the number of local residents with British accents.

Me: “How do so many Brits find Southwest Florida?”

Jerry: “It begins with Disney. People from overseas go to Disney and later tour the rest of Florida.”

Me: “But after a Disney vacation, who can afford to travel anymore?”

Jerry: “Well, you come back 20 years later when the kids are grown.”

Me: “Ahh...”

Louise: “Once here, you just cannot return to the constantly gloomy days of England.”

Makes sense to me.


Phil (#871) 05-24-15

While I was interacting with yesterday's stranger, David, Phil walked up to inspect the action. So I immediately recruited him. No Problem. For a while, Phil, David, Katy (the reporter) and I had a round robin conversation.

But he told me that he likes to say “No.” “It gets a reaction.” Phil drove a bus in Manhattan for 30 years, and has seen a lot. Like when a rider said, “I'd like to get off here', Phil would say “No” and watch his startled reaction. Then Phil would pull the bus over a block later and say, “Sir, I have found a safe place for you to step off. Have a nice day.” I guess that those are the games you play when you have a lot of time on your hands.

I asked Phil how he was able to maintain any kind of schedule, driving in New York traffic. “Simple, you drive like a maniac.”

Phil was very outgoing, and could not understand why anyone would have a tough time talking to strangers. He should have the camera.


David (#870) 05-23-15

OK, Katy (the Sarasota Herald Tribune reporter) and I walked along, her small Canon camera was on a tripod that was folded, effectively a monopod. As David came out of a door, he immediately sidestepped us and fell behind. Then he quickly passed us and said “I thought that was a crutch. If I had known it was that thing, I wouldn't have stepped aside for you.” I didn't quite know how to take that, but when in doubt, ask for a portrait. I said, “Do you know why she has that? I ask strangers for a photograph and she is making a video of me doing it. Can I meet you and take your photograph?” He looked at me sideways, kept walking, and said “OK.”

He stopped at an outdoor piano, sat, and began to play – and intermittently sing. His piano skills were considerable, the singing, not so much.

He has worked with a person at Fogartyville, a community media and art center. For the next several minutes, while playing, he had a stream of consciousness monolog that bordered on a rant. All topics music and local politics were covered. I was overwhelmed by material and couldn't write most of it down. Basically he was put off at the world for not being more recognized for his talents. I kept asking for a pause so that I could photograph. Daniel gave me nanosecond opportunities. For the first time, my Olympus autofocus let me down. He did play with feeling, and I think that the posted image reflects that.


Kasia (#869) 05-22-15

This was the second stop, being followed by a Sarasota Herald Tribune reporter. We began to walk by the Whole Foods outdoor eating area when I saw Kasia and made an immediate about-face. As I explained our mission, she began smiling – she 'got it.' I asked if anyone ever misspelled her name - “Oh yeah. Some people confuse it with the cereal.”

It's Polish. Kasia was born in Krakow and moved to the U.S. At age six. She has no accent. Her parents also live in the U.S. And have plenty of accent. Most of the rest of her family is in Poland. She visits occasionally and misses the homeland. Still, she likes Sarasota except for the heat. Join the club.

Kasia works in sales for ATT.

“Oh, are you the one who spams my e-mail, or the one who cold calls me at suppertime?”

“No, I don't do those things. I am in direct customer sales.”

At least she didn't get offended.

I showed her this shot on the camera LCD and asked if she'd prefer one without the cigarette. “No, I'm a smoker. That's who I am.” We are now Facebook friends.


Dan (#868) 05-21-15

The next four strangers will be a little different. A reporter, Katy, from the Sarasota Herald Tribune interviewed me, and then followed me around with video equipment. So when I introduced myself to a stranger and made 'the ask', Katy quickly explained that I was being followed for a website video. Katy met me a few weeks ago – I photographed her, of course (#607).

As Katy and I passed Smokin' Joe's Bar, Dan was having a cigar break al fresco. He had lived in Seattle. I noted that most people around here were from Ohio/Michigan, or New York/New Jersey. Seattle to Sarasota is not a common migration path. Many years ago Dan moved here to be close to his ailing dad. They were together for 20 years.

Dan loves Pastry Art, my favorite haunt. A few months ago he was in an auto accident and had one arm in a sling. So he learned to hold a bag with pastries and a cup of coffee in one hand – a useful skill.

He lit up his cigar and told me not to photograph him with it. His wife would be upset.

“Do you think that she cannot smell it on your breath?”

“I brush my teeth before she sees me.”


They have been married for 10 years. Two years ago they opened up a salon salon in the nearby Rosemary District. That is an up and coming neighborhood that had been neglected for decades.


Thomas and Lucy, (#867) 05-20-15

Thomas is Hungarian. He likes Sarasota, but thinks that there should be more cultural activities for young people. I told him that I used to live in Venice. He rolled his eyes and said, "You would be young there (67), I would REALLY be young." Thomas is well acquainted with Cafe Clasico, where we were; he met Lucy there. And he remembers when it was the Palm Cafe, and before that, Sarasota Bookstore. Thomas reminisced about the "Mom and Pop" bookstore, and private bookstores in general. Their future does not appear bright.

He is a realtor. I said, "Oh, do you sell these condos( waving my arm by new highrises under construction)." he said yes, but that most of them had already been sold, for up to $2,000,000 each where there is a bay view.

Lucy said that I had never heard of her birthplace, Cape Verde. I said that of course I had, a group of islands off Africa. She seemed surprised. I told her that she was the first female from Cape Verde that I had met that was not a hurricane. In Florida we are very cognizant of the "Cape Verde Season", where tropical depressions form off of Africa and sweep across the Atlantic, strengthening into hurricanes.

Lucy used to work at Cafe Clasico, but now she works at Brian's Seafood, north of town. She is my second stranger who works there. Lucy wanted to keep sunglasses on. She had partied hard the night before and was concerned about the appearance of her eyes. They look fine.


Kelsey and Alex (#866) 19-05-15

Kelsey and Alex walked my way and I was ready. But they suddenly turned into a spice store and I had to bide my time. A fellow tied his bulldog to a pole right next to me and disappeared into a restaurant. The beautiful dog was rather ambitious and I had to move – I almost lost interest. But when they walked out and I explained the project, they were more than happy to be a part.

Kelsey and Alex are from Tampa, visiting the area for a day. So far, they are impressed. Kelsey teaches English as a second language. She speaks some Russian, but is not allowed to speak it in class. If the primary language is used at all, students end up 'translating' everything, and never learn how to 'think' in English. Actually, I'm not sure that I can think in English. She likes this challenge, but doesn't look at this as her calling.

Alex works in finance. Not for a brokerage house, but at an electrical supply company. Among other things, he does collections.

“Oh, are you the 'enforcer' for delinquent accounts?”

Kelsey, “Yeah, that's why he has these guns (squeezes Alex's bicep).”

Alex, “No, I haven't had to resort to violence yet (rolls eyes).”

They both seemed to enjoy the encounter and took my card.


Jess and Tucker (#865) 05-18-15

Jess and Tucker had the audacity to sip cups of Java in front of MY coffee shop. So I did my thing, and they were happy to be photographed.

Jess (Jessica) graduated from local Booker High School, the one partially devoted to visual and performing arts. Since 2009 she has performed with the Modern Ethos dance troupe. http://movingethos.org/index.html

The group will be performing in Sarasota this July. The venue will be the tiny Urbanite theater, which will be modified to seat 35 (thirty five!) for the performances. Jess agrees that dancers not colliding will be a challenge. I immediately bought a ticket for the first performance.

Tucker owns her own landscaping business. I was intrigued by the intricate tattoo on her left arm. She got it in New Zealand for the equivalent of $300. It is art of the Mauri, the indigenous people of new Zealand. Each line represents an event in Tucker's life.


Mike (#864) 05-17-15

Mike was sitting with a young lady who shook her head “no.” Mike shook his head “yes” at that, I guess she was really having a bad day. But Mike was not, and was glad to participate. Both of them are musicians in a band called 'Pleasures.' She is a guitar player and vocalist, Mike plays drums. When I showed him my Photostream, he pointed to Greg (yesterday's stranger) and said that Greg was in the same band. Quite a coincidence as these were on different days.

Mike was born in Sarasota and graduated from Sarasota High School. After getting a degree in Music, he taught for two years at SHS and one year at Booker High. But teaching was not for Mike, so he quit to join this band. They are arranging their second tour, 5,000 miles in a month. Their first tour was over 8,000 miles. It was modestly successful, they came home with a little money after expenses. The financial uncertainty doesn't seem to bother him.

I told him about a book that I just read – it seems germane: The Crossroads of Should and Must.” Should is what other people and society suggest you do, vs must, what your heart says to do.


Greg (#863) 05-15-15

Greg is originally from Philadelphia, he rolled his eyes as he said it. "Oh, you don't like Philadelphia?" "It's OK." (eyes rolling again). He moved here many years ago and graduated from Sarasota High School.

He is now a musician that travels a lot, with a group. Gigs seem better out of town.

"Do you play the piano?"

"A little."

"Well, what do you play in the group?"

"Well, I like Synthesizer and stuff." (Greg tends toward the taciturn).

"Oh, you play a computer."

"No, Synthesizers were around in the 70s."


Polo (#862) 05-14-05

Actually, his name is Hipolito (ee POE lee toe). Polo was in an alleyway, on his haunches, photographing. He was right in front of a bicycle that was standing in front of some complex plumbing, probably sewer pipes. I asked what he saw to photograph. Polo stood and showed me the LCD and pointed out the lines formed by the elements, how the lines formed a rough circle, and how that circle would hold the viewers eyes.

Polo has a degree in fine arts. He is from Puerto Rico, having moved to Florida 1 ½ years ago. He is working on his English. The camera was a Canon 7D and he asked me to clone out the amateurish “EOS” in the strap. The kit lens is OK, but he cannot afford pro lenses at the moment, lenses that would be necessary to photograph weddings and other money making projects.

For the time being, he works at the Yellowfin boat building facility. www.yellowfin.com The job is problematic in that he has difficulty with fumes involved in production. Polo pulled out his phone and showed me showed me images of him at the factory. He wears a hazmat-like suit with a mask. But he has to shave very closely so that the mask can form a tight fit. Even with that, fumes get in and effect his breathing.


Alex(andra) (#860) 05-13-15

Last week I posted a male Alex. I wanted to specify this stranger as Alex(andra) to keep things straight. From across the street I saw her being seated at one of my new favorite al fresco dining locations. For light colored hair, the light and background are wonderful. As soon as I described the project, Alex was “in.” She thought that the concept sounded like a lot of fun, and wished that she could do it (you can!).

Alex is from the north shore of Long Island, N.Y. Having moved to Sarasota 20 years ago, she is now CEO of Mercedes Medical, selling medical supplies to doctors and hospitals. This includes SaraPath, a group of pathologists who used to be my colleagues. She is on the board of directors of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She likes the job and says that politics are minimal. I was surprised. In a recent public election, several board candidates were for selling the hospital to a for-profit group. They were defeated, and Alex is confident that this community would not stand for a hospital sale. Her info is listed in the hospital website. www.smh.com/p.aspx?p=44

While we spoke, her friend Matt arrived. A waiter immediately appeared, and Matt ordered an Arnold Palmer. Within seconds, the manager (whom I recognize) tapped and made a drinking motion from the inside of a window. Matt mouthed the words Arnold Palmer. A minute later he was the proud owner of two Arnold Palmers.

While I was photographing Alex, Matt said to her, "Why not show him 'The Look'"

"The Look?"

"Yeah, the look that she always gives to professional photographers when being photographed for magazines, etc."

I looked at Alex and said, "Like Sarasota Scene magazine?"

She shrugged and shook her head in the affirmative.

Interestingly, her portrait for the hospital website does not have "The Look."


Jan (#859) 05-12-15

Jan, pronounced Jan, not Yan. The pronunciation depends on your ancestors. Jan's mother was named 'Welch', from Ireland. That struck me funny. He was having a drink at Smokin' Joe's Bar, guaranteed good light. He has lived in Sarasota since 1959, working mostly in irrigation. During a 12 year hiatus he lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Jan loves Native American history.

Jan was a Marine, and wore the appropriate hat. During Viet Nam he was sprayed with agent orange and has numerous health problems as a result. I told him that a friend of mine was also sprayed, with diabetes and lung problems ensuing. With plenty of reason to be bitter, you could not find a more patriotic man. Jan is the same. He holds no grudge and is a true flag waver.

Recently he has lived in an apartment building that houses many college students. Several are studying film, and have recruited Jan to have an ersatz acting role. He loves it. “It keeps me young, and what the Hell.” One five minute video clip took over 20 hours to produce. Whew!


Anne (#858) 05-11-15

Anne was seated, awaiting lunch. The small outdoor table was against a window and surrounded by ivy. The slight indentation was in shade, but with light reflecting from across the street. I liked the image. When she saw it, she remarked, “Oh, the light is nice.” Immediately said, “Ah, you're an artist of some type.” Almost everyone who likes an image comments on the camera. Commenting on light is the mark of an artist. In this case, a professional photographer no less.

Much of her work is underwater.

“Where might I see your work?”

“Many places, including national Geographic.”

“I've heard of it!”

Her site is here: http://annedoubilet.com/ The galleries remind me that the best work involves making simple compositions in a complex world. Beautiful. Suddenly I said, “Wait, you must know Steve McCurry.” She does, and confirmed that he is a soft spoken gentleman, just as I had thought. I don't have a bucket list, but if I did, lunch with Steve McCurry would be near the top.

Anne was originally from Boston, but has hailed from New York for many years. As the site shows, she is a lady of the world. Anne visits Sarasota occasionally, to visit friends. She was pleasant answering questions, but offered little spontaneously. A couple of days later I read about the funeral of Dr. Eugenie Clark, world renown as “The Shark Lady.” I suspect that was why Anne was in Sarasota.

She liked the project, “How fun!” I sent her pictures and got a pleasant reply.


Sean (#857) 05-09-15

Sean likes it here. He was obviously on break from some job, and darned if it wasn't at Cafe Clasico, where I have photographed several women recently. He lived in Chicago for 12 years, Indiana for 12, and now Sarasota for three. Sean loves the ambiance of downtown. At first he worked on Siesta Key, but quickly got tired of the 'a**hole tourists.' from up north.

In Indians, making $10/hr. was considered good. Here he works 40 hrs/week and makes $20-$30/hr. With tips. But, and it is a big BUT, no health insurance. That had been costing $250/month, so he let it lapse. But if he doesn't get insurance next year, he will face a tax penalty. Ah, the joys of “The Affordable Health Care Act”.


Alison, etal (#856) 05-08-15

I used the second story parking lot by Whole Foods. Before walking down, I surveyed the food court area and saw a young couple enjoying themselves and each other. So, I wasted no time. Sure enough, they were very approachable and eager to participate.

Adam is a Sarasota native and attended local Riverview High School. He is now a freshman at Florida State University. As a University of Florida graduate, I am distressed at how many strangers go to rival FSU. Adam will major in Economics. My only recollection of Economics from business school is the development of a keen appreciation of why it is called The Dismal Science.

Mercedes is a senior at Pineview High, a school for the gifted. Her father is from Argentina where Mercedes is a common name. She will attend Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. She chose it because of the strong music program.

As we spoke, Mercedes' mother, Alison, came up. She was happy to be photographed too – a threefer! I chose her as the posted name only in that she is the matriarch of the group. She is from New Jersey and has NO accent. I told her that I left New York almost 60 years ago and that some people say that they can hear it in my voice (I cringed as I said this). She said that a New York accent isn't such a bad thing. That's her opinion.

I sent these images to Adam. I got a reply that included this quote, “We were all buzzing about meeting you and ecstatic while waiting for these photos! Thank you.” That sure makes it all worthwhile!