I stood in a location that is usually unsuitable for portrait photography. But on this morning, the overcast sky made the light acceptable. As Chris walked toward me, his loosey-goosey gait, and amused look caught my eye and made a portrait attempt necessary.
Three ladies were walking toward me. As I addressed them, I was careful to make eye contact with each one, in turn. I looked for a few seconds at #1, then turned to #2 and #3. The second time around, #3 was absent, never to be seen again.
When I was done speaking, (Jo Ann) said, “Oh yeah, I've heard of that.
You've heard of 100 Strangers?”
“Where? Were you photographed?”
“I don't remember where, I wasn't photographed.”
I Wasn't sure what to make of that. But then Jo Ann added, “And I follow Humans of New York (HONY on Facebook.” Well I'll be darned.
So I photographed Jo Ann, but #2 held up her hand and declined. Oh well, 33% success – not so great.
Akeia was on the cell phone while sitting on a bench in Macon, GA. This was on Cherry Street, next to a bridal shop. She works there. When I explained 100 Strangers, she first smiled, and then broke into laughter. She was certainly not adverse to being photographed. Her friends call her Keia (sounds like Kee-a).
She was born in Macon.
I asked, “How do you like living in Macon?”
“I hate it.”
“I'm too young. There isn't much for young people here. I'd rather live in Florida, either Destin or Miami.”
Well, despite this negative note, she enjoyed being photographed. Asking not to smile brought out her inner thespian tendencies.
My wife and I sat at an outdoor Italian restaurant, on a corner in St. Petersburg, FL. It was about 6PM. From my seat, I had a view of North and west pedestrian traffic. Looking to the west, everyone was rimmed by backlight – nice.
When I saw Peter approach from the west, I hopped out of my chair and walked toward him. There were three possible bad outcomes:
1. He would refuse a portrait.
2. I'd get the shot, but his hair would be overexposed from the backlight.
3. I'd get a good shot, but my wife would eat my pizza.
As I explained the project to Peter, he began to smile – all was good. He said, “Sure, go ahead” and he had an obvious accent. He is from Denmark, and has been in the U.S. For six months. He loves it here.
I said, “You look too young for that luxurious beard.”
Peter stroked his beard and smiled, “I'm 35.”
“What are you going to do when it turns all gray?”
Still stroking, and smiling broader, “We'll see...”
I walked on Main Street with another photographer, Rob. Rob is a retired professional portrait photographer, trained at Brooks Institute. We must have been quite a sight. I am 6'1”, and carry my micro 4/3 camera on a wrist strap – wrist bling. Rob is several inches shorter and looked like a pack mule. He had a full frame camera with bazooka lens, tripod, strobes, and a bulging photovest filled with God-knows-what. I was about to learn some things that morning.
Across the street I saw a young family of three eating in the doorway of a restaurant. The inside was dark and the light popped them, so I excused myself, crossed the street, and made my move. The three were at a fairly long table with Mom and Dad at the ends, and junior in the middle. Usually when I explain the project to two adults, I make eye contact with each, alternately. But Dan and Oana were so far apart that I did my male chauvinist pig thing and addressed Dan. While I spoke, he had a look of puzzled amusement. Finally he said, “No. No, I thank you.” He had a European accent that I did not recognize. I thanked him, wished them a good day, and moved on.
I spoke with Rob about 40 yards away when Dan quickly approached and asked me to repeat the request. I did so and showed him my cell phone with Flickr Photostream. He smiled and said “That's OK,” and we walked back to his table. They are from Romania, and visiting Florida for a few months.
When I asked to photograph David (the child), he said sure. Like most kids, David was squirming all over the place. I got a few bursts, and only the very last frame was usable.
Roselyn and David were performing at the end of a street at a Farmer's Market. Roselyn's electric smile and outgoing personality stole the show. David was the 'straight man', being quiet and supportive. He played a trumpet, while she played the guitar and sang. And SANG!
They are from New Orleans, and their music was predominantly southern jazz. Their website is HERE.
Roselyn was more than happy to be photographed and talk (between numbers) about their tour. But the real chatting began when I asked, “Were you in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina?” She put down the guitar and talked for five minutes. The gist of it was that she and David left JUST before the storm hit. And their home was destroyed. Who knows what would have happened had they stayed.
Her daughter saved the. She (the daughter) called Roselyn and said that she had to leave. Roselyn had not been paying attention to the news, and just said that New Orleans is used to hurricanes. No big deal. Her daughter said, “This storm is huge. It IS a big deal. You have to leave now!” Roselyn again played it down. The daughter finally said, “If you don't leave now I'll kick your coffin when it's over.” So Roselyn and David left, and the rest is history.
When I saw Willie, I just loved the light. And when I made my move, he had no reservations about being photographed. Willie was born and raised in Macon, and attended three high schools including Central, where my Granddaughter is now a freshman. There are seven high schools in Macon, so a lot of folks have attended Central.
When I asked him not to smiles, the smile got a bit less pronounced. Finally I said, “You just can't not smile, can you?” Willie said, “No man, it's my birthday. I'm 50 today.” Well, THAT'S a good reason!
I began the morning with another photographer interested in portraits of strangers. So, as usual, I wanted to approach someone fairly quickly, to get the 'juices' flowing. Along came John. We were in an area that is usually in bright sunlight, but this was a rare very overcast day, and light was of acceptable quality almost everywhere.
When I approached John, he was interested in the project and was eager to be photographed. He said, Oh, you have a film camera?” I love it when people confuse my Olympus OM-D E-M5 for a film camera, because of it's retro look. I assured him that it was pure digital. Turns out that John has a Canon 7D and is getting into professional photography. He has been assisting professional photographer Troy Plota – his website is HERE.
Troy does very high end work.
John is from nearby Bradenton and graduated from high school there.
A recent 100 Strangers string explores the preferences of photographers to look for the Stranger, or the background for a photograph. Well in Matt's case, the background came first. I was in downtown Macon Ga, a place that I visit three or four times a year. So I am superficially familiar with the area, but do not have intimate knowledge of specific locations.
When I came upon this dark alcove, with a brick wall and bright reflective building across the street, I knew that it was a winner of a location. All I needed was someone to meet there. And “Tag”, Matt was “IT!” When I explained the project, Matt was very polite and cooperative. He was also very shy, and did not easily offer conversation. Matt was raised in Macon and graduated from Central High School, where my younger granddaughter now attends. Matt finished 10 years ago. He now works at a Pizza restaurant a few doors away, and was 'on break' as we spoke.
If I lived in Macon, I would visit this location often.
I saw Cassandra from across the street, and she was not headed my way. Her posture, the way she way she moved and carried herself caught my eye; she had a 'presence', which unfortunately cannot be captured in a two dimensional image. But I had to try anyway.
I quickly crossed the road and chased her through a maze of tents (yet another festival of some kind). I circled in front of her and asked my question – she smiled and said “Of course.” The sky was overcast; quality of light would not be a problem. But potential backgrounds were chaotic, so I did something I seldom do; I asked her to move about 20 yards, to the side of a white tent. Cassandra was more than happy to do so. My usual request to 'not smile' didn't work so well, she knew how she wanted to look and that was it. I suspect that she had seen a camera before. :-)
Cassandra lived in Ana Maria Island, about 15 miles away, and had attended St. Leo College. She affirmed my knowledge of St. Leo, that it is in San Antonio, Fl, home of an annual rattlesnake roundup. Sounds like fun (not!).
Larry is a bit of a character, but you already figured that out. I was walking past a number of small art studios and antique stores when I saw Larry about to enter one. When I saw the gray Mohawk, I knew that he would be agreeable. Surprise, he smiled and politely declined. But he said that he had a friend who would be game, so I should follow. I did. As I spoke with his lady friend, he looked at me and said, “awww, OK.” So I got this shot – indoors.
Larry is retired, but he wouldn't say from what. I asked what kind of dye he used to make his hair look gray ;-). He assured me that the color was the real thing. Larry was born in Macon, but attended a different high school than my Granddaughters. He asked where I was from, and when I said the west coast of Florida he told me that he planned to move to Ft. Myers. When I asked why, he just said, “Why not?”
It was a very cool morning in Macon, GA. But by afternoon the temperature warmed nicely, and Benjamin's attire seemed slightly out of place. I really liked how the hood framed his face. So I asked and he said, “Sure.”
Benjamin was born and raised in Macon. Visiting from Florida this always seems remarkable, as most Florida residents are transplants from somewhere else. He graduated from Southwest High School. I usually ask that as my granddaughters each attended Macon high schools.
Benjamin runs H.O.P.E., a program for the mentally disabled. Very commendable. Unfortunately a Google search turns up many H.O.P.E. Programs, and I am not sure which one is associated with him.
While visiting Macon, GA, we headed to Molly's Cafe for lunch. A man was outside the door seated at a table. He had one tall stack of linen napkins, and was folding them and placing them on a second stack. After we were seated inside, the man came in and spoke rather loudly to the waitresses. As he spoke, my wife and I quickly looked at each other. His gravely voice sounded EXACTLY like Louis Armstrong. Satchmo! I've never heard another voice quite like that.
He stepped outside again, and I followed with my camera. He was pleased to be photographed. His name is Larry, but all of his friends call him Louis. Surprise, surprise. Larry graduated from high school in Macon and then joined the military. Following that, he worked for the local sheriff’s department for 20 years and retired at 55. Now he works at Molly's 4 - 5 hours a day, filling in and doing odd jobs. Not a bad way to follow a retirement!
Look at that face. Would you want him to be cross with you as a law enforcement officer?
This was Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, GA. So we visited the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau for some ideas of what to do. One docent caught my eye. She had a great, outgoing personality and just exuded good feeling. She was busy with other tourists, so I had to wait quite a while for my chance.
As soon as I explained toe 100 Strangers group, she said, “Oh, I want to do that!” Huh? She and her daughter travel a lot and love to photograph – and she would LOVE to meet people and photograph them. So I gave her my card, and hopefully she'll join.
Her name is Andrea. I explained that I had a good friend named Andrea, but that she goes by Andy. Well guess what, this Andrea goes by Drea. All depends on how you slice the pie.
This is a rare indoor shot, for me. During Cherry Blossom Week, people are encouraged to wear pink, and if possible, cherry blossoms. Drea had this beautiful pink/red flower, but it looks no more like a cherry blossom than a soccer ball.
On a VERY windy morning, an outdoor art show was being assembled. I walked by one kiosk and saw an artist hard at work; his oriental appearance, Kimono, and grace of movement caught my eye. I vowed to return when his setup work was complete. And I did.
Kue King is a wire sculpture artist. Of Filipino decent, he is from Hawaii and lives on a sailboat with his friend, Corbett. Kue's website is HERE.
Amazingly (to me), Wikipedia has an entry for Kue, and it is HERE.
Corbett is a photographer and has chronicled Kue's work. He was quite interested in my Olympus OM-D E-M5.
If anyone just LOOKS like an artist, it's Kue.
This was the second time that I had been hustled that afternoon in Tampa. Shawn. When I first heard his name, he said S-H-A-W-N. "I never understood how they got Shawn out of S-E-A-N, like Sean Connery." So, we got that straight!
Shawn walked VERY briskly toward me and told me his story, not that I had asked. He and his 11 year old daughter were originally from Alabama. They were traveling in South Florida where he found work, when his truck was broken into and everything was stolen. The daughter was with police at the police station. Shawn said that he wasn't asking for help for himself, but for his daughter. He told me how much he needed for a meal (for her) and a place to stay for the night. I offered a fraction of that in order to meet and photograph him.
It is discouraging how commonplace this type of interaction is becoming. Shawn was very well spoken and convincing. I assume that it was a scam, but who knows?
Cheryl was sitting in a tall directors chair along the edge of the sidewalk, with artist's booths in the middle of the closed off street. She just seemed so content. So when I asked if she was one of the artists, she said, "Oh no, my husband Greg is" as she pointed to a booth with a sign, "Driftwood Expressions." I toured the booth. The artwork is predominantly sea life, and the medium is rough driftwood. Some have areas of polished wood, finished as fish.
Cheryl and Greg are from Louisiana, and are not actually husband and wife. Divorced, Cheryl knew Greg since high school and they have been couple for the past two years. A man from an adjacent booth came by and they hugged. Cheryl said, "This is my other husband." OK.
Cheryl and Greg spend time in the Bayou country where they gather all of the rough wood. Cheryl then cleans and sorts it, and prepares it for the artist. They do a circuit of art festivals, the next weekend they would be in Marathon, FL, about 275 miles away.
As I began the morning walking on Main St., I passed Kokonuts, a relatively new woman's apparel store in Sarasota. The info is HERE.
A young lady was opening the door from the inside and adjusting an outside sign. I walked on, figuring that she was working and didn't have time for a portrait. But on a whim, I did an about face and met her. She seemed amused by the project and flattered to be included. Her name is Angelique, and I guessed at the correct spelling the first time. This is not common.
Angelique was born in San Diego, and came to Sarasota via Missouri. This winter, she is plenty glad to be here. Even though she was on duty, Angelique was no particular hurry to finish.