Bella (#714) 11-24-14

I saw Bella in front of The Connection Cafe, in Bradenton. She is a 10% owner. The restaurant is only ½ block off of Main Street; it has low rent, but the location is lousy. Bella was totally running the restaurant that day; she was the waitress, cook, bus person, etc. Her father was Cuban, and being half Cuban, she makes good Cuban food. I had a Cuban sandwich, and it had the flat, crisp panini that is the hallmark of excellence.

Bella graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1991. She lives in the Bradenton art district, and loves painting and illustration. Her art presence is Bella and the Beasts – she loves painting animals. There was one illustration in the restaurant. I thought that it was a painting, but she explained that it was an illustration, composed on 300 lb. Rag paper.

In the past, Bella has also photographed, using Nikon, Yashica, and Leica cameras.


Christopher (#713) 11-23-14

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.


Devi (#712) 11-22-14

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 (#711) 11-21-14

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.


Christine and Kim (#710) 20-11-14

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.


Bill (#709) 11-19-14

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.


Debra (#708) 11-18-14

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.


Roy (#707) 11-17-14

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.


Heather and Kaleen (#706) 11-16-14

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.


John and Linda (#705) 11-15-14

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.”


Earl (#704) 11-13-14

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.


Eric (#703) 11-13-14

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.


Lucy (#702) 11-12-14

I visited friends in new Smyrna Beach. They are patrons of the Arts, and support a local art co-op (my words)., The site is HERE.  I was amazed by the sophistication of the location, which began only 2 ½ years ago.

Lucy was the volunteer at the front desk the day that I visited. She is a rare Florida native. “I was born in the center of the state and slowly migrated east. Now at the ocean, I can't go any farther.” She was shy, and a little reticent about being photographed. But after she was (relatively) comfortable with the idea, she kindly stepped outside for better light. We exchanged cards. Her association with The Hub is truly a labor of love.

While inside, I met Irene, an accomplished painter. She was helping a fellow painter set up a gallery viewing. They spent many minutes deciding the height of the pieces; 67 inches, 67 ½ inches, or 68 inches. Perhaps you thought that art was intuitive. Irene also kindly stepped outside for a photograph. She liked the one in the comments.


Jim and Barbara (#701) 11-11-14

While sitting outdoors sipping a way-too-hot cup of coffee, there was laughter behind me. I looked out the corner of my eye, and this couple were acting like they were having the time of their lives. Hopefully I wouldn't mess that up. As always, I made eye contact alternately as I explained my intention. While looking at Jim, I said “I belong to a camera group called 100 Strangers...” That's as far as I got before he started laughing and rolling his eyes. Jim saw the whole story before I could get the words out. And both were happy to be included.

Barbara was originally from Union County, NJ, and Jim was from Amityville, NY. They lived in Manhattan for many years, as Jim was an investment banker. In fact, he still is working. He looked around, raised his palms and said,”Why not work here?” I replied, “Oh, so this is a business meeting?” “Yes, we're writing this $5 off (laugh).”

Jim had noticed the same thing I have. Men in our generation use nicknames: Jim, Bob, Bill, etc. The younger generation use the proper names: James, Robert, and William. I am still amazed that we had a president named Jimmy.

I took a lot of pictures of Barbara – just could not get a genuine look without a camera-smile. She once had a professional non-smiling portrait that she hated and discarded. I was on notice. As Jim laughed so much, it was difficult to get a serious pose of him too. I liked this image, where he seems to be 'swallowing a smile.'

I showed it to Barbara and asked if she could do that. I got several more Barbara pics and liked the authenticity of this look. I felt good, as I really had to work for this.


Josh (#700) 11-10-14

700, whoo hooo!

How could Josh not catch my eye as he walked toward me on Main St? A young fellow with suspenders and a bow tie, definitely not the uniform of Sarasota FL. When I stopped him and asked for a portrait, he had no reservations.

Josh is an accountant trained in upstate New York. His office celebrates(?) 'Tie Tuesday.' I thought for a minute, yep, it was Tuesday. Usually he wears a regular tie, but today he decided to upstage the competition. He was the only man in the office with a bow tie.

He liked the 100 Strangers project, and took my card.


James and Jenny (#699) 11-09-14

A bar called 'The Blue Owl Tavern on Main' has been kind to me. Although it's on the wrong side of the street for optimal light, there is an alcove in front that provides adequate shade. And an adequate supply of 'characters.' When I passed the alcove and saw James and Jenny, I did not hesitate to meet them. Both were friendly and receptive.

James said, “You've seen me here before.” Yikes! Oh yeah, I remembered, he was with several other guys whom I photographed, but I missed him. Not this time. James is from Kentucky, but has worked at The Blue Owl for 1 ½ years. He asked the name of the project again. Within seconds he had 100 Strangers on his phone, and then my photostream. He has an agile mind and nimble left thumb.

James recognized several of my strangers, and shared the phone with Jenny. She pointed and laughed at a couple. “Oh look, there's Steve (Stranger #427) and Marty (Stranger #419)!” “Oh, and Joel (Stranger #399) was clean shaven!” I saw Joel a few days ago, the 'stache is coming back.

Both liked the 100 Strangers concept and Jenny took my card. Neither wanted a copy of their respective images. I liked Jenny's shoulder lace tattoo.


Bob (#698) 11-08-14

I was standing in front of a breakfast restaurant when Bob approached me. “Could you spare something so that I could get pancakes?” Interesting that less than 20 feet away is a sign that says that 93% of money given to panhandlers goes to drugs and alcohol. Several such signs are along main Street, and all are attached to light poles with steel cables. I suspect that the local merchants association placed them.

Anyway, I said to bob, “I'll make you a deal”, and explained the 100 Strangers project. He said,”A picture? I don't see anything wrong with that.” He was living in Harlem, New York, but his girlfriend got him to move here. I said that living in Florida must be a lot easier than in (cold) New York. He said that both black and white people in New Your have money. The poverty isn't so bad. But it is so expensive to live there...

Suddenly, he moved on, apparently looking for another mark. He did notgo into the restaurant for pancakes.


Russell and Jessica (#697) 11-07-14

I saw Russell drinking a glass of beer at a table in front of a Pizza place. After a few minutes, Jessica came out of the restaurant with a few slices of pizza and her own drink. She seemed to tend to Russell a bit.

When I approached them about the portrait project, Russell seemed OK and Jessica seemed a little nervous. Russell's smile never changed. My attempts to get a different pose went totally unnoticed. Russell said that he used to do photography and videography in the military. During the Korean war he photographed in the Philippines and several other locations that I could not understand. He was originally from Anderson Indiana. A couple of times Jessica prompted him when I asked a question.

Jessica continued to seem a bit nervous, but liked the images. I got her e-mail address and sent them both to her.


Jade (#696) 11-06-14

Jade was 'working' Central Avenue, seeking donations for the ROTC program at Gibbs High School. The goal is for the ROTC program to attend a Drill event in Washington D.C., in December. The team would get to tour the Capital, go to Mall of America, and compete in a drill competition. The Mall of America is not the national mall, but a group of stores. I made a modest donation.

When I explained 100 Strangers, Jade had no reservations about being photographed. But my usual headshot doesn't show her predominant feature. She was on crutches, with a 'boot' on her left foot. This was a ligament strain – an ROTC accident. The boot will be on for 6-7 weeks.

I asked if she'd be ready to make the trip. “Yeah, I think I'll be able to go, but not drill.”

“Hey, that's not so bad!”

“No, as long as I get to go to the mall.”


Daniel and Shannon (#695) 11-05-14

Daniel and Shannon were sitting outdoors sipping their respective lattes. Daniel was slumped slightly in his chair, while Shannon was far more vociferous and animated. When I approached them they were eager to participate and offered me a chair. That's the second time in a week that I had been offered a seat at the table. Nice.

Daniel is from New Jersey, but most of his family is in Queens, NY. We talked about Queens, my birthplace. When I was a baby, in the summer my mother would put me in a carriage, place me on the front lawn, and go inside to do her housework. The neighbors did the same thing. Daniel and I agreed that those days are loooong gone.

He graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design, with a degree in Graphic Arts. He had worked in a graphics art position, but now is self employed. His website is HERE.  Daniel's goal is to support himself as a painter and he thinks that it is possible.

Shannon is from Kentucky and has been in this area for 15 years. She's only been back to Kentucky one time. She is a graduate of Venice High School, like me. She sings in several local clubs, and has a cleaning service. She is a part of the website HERE.

We all exchanged cards, and I have sent the images to them.