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.
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.
“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 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.
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. https://www.withoutabox.com/03film/03t_fin/03t_fin_fest_01over.php?festival_id=1312
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...
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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobdeinphoto/15343669680/in/set-72157627425474507
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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobdeinphoto/15669207135/in/set-72157627425474507 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. https://www.facebook.com/freshfarmerart 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 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.