Gunner and Jan (#926) 08-12-15

As I passed a restaurant on Main St., Gunner and Jan were on a bench in front of a restaurant. His expression caught my eye. I had never photographed in this spot, but the light looked acceptable, and Gunner's face was more than acceptable. So I made the ask. The response was positive, but lukewarm. Jan was into it more than Gunner.

He said that his portrait would break my lens, I've heard that before. He moved here from Mass., but would not say where he was born. Jan tried to egg him on, but Gunner was not talkative. After I got the shot, Jan agreed, but would only give me a camera smile. They both live in the same apartment building.

In the past, I would not have posted these images. I wrote the entries for the 100 Strangers Flickr group, which requires more story (in my opinion), than Gunner and Jan. But that all changed about a month ago.

I got a surprise notice from the group moderators. I had about 670 entries, another fellow had nearly 800 and a woman from Finland had a staggering 1,200. The moderators felt that we were posting too much and not developing as photographers, and that is the mission of the group. So I have been politely barred from posting in that group. At first I was surprised and disappointed. But in a way this is liberating. I feel free to photograph anyone I want and give as little or as much as the case warrants.

Thank you, Gunner and Jan, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing portrait project.


Hayley (#925) 08-10-15

At noon on a Sunday, I parked in a high rise garage, crossed the street and headed to Giuseppe's Ristorante. I had photographed Giuseppe a few years ago.

Alas, it was closed for lunch on Sundays. Drat! So I headed back toward the garage and passed “Old School Bar and Grill, a Music Joint.” It looked a little rough, but how rough could a place be at noon on a Sunday? So I went in to the dark, noisy establishment and had a decent taco salad. More importantly, I met Hayley.

She was my waitress, and as soon as I saw her I mentally kicked myself in the rear end for not carrying the camera. But it was in the trunk of the car, 90 seconds away. When I finished and Hayley asked if there were anything else I wanted, I said “Yes”, and explained how I wanted to meet her and make a portrait. I showed her my photostream on the phone and she was quite impressed with the lighting. A mature observation. So I settled up, got the camera, and was back for action. The open doorway into Old School was a good spot.

Hayley was born in Virginia and came to Sarasota at age 11. She went to Bradenton Prep, a now defunct high school. The job at Old School has good hours for Hayley, but this is not a career. She works nights during the week so that she can be home during the day while her husband works. They share duties taking care of their 'very active' 16 month old son. On weekends, the boys have 'guy time' while she works during the day. Hayley plans to be a stay-at-home mom when their second is born (no, she's not pregnant yet).

Thank you, Hayley, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing portrait project.


Will (#924) 08-03-15

Back where I belong, sipping Coke (Coke? Too hot for coffee) in front of Pastry Art. Will was perched precariously on a large display window ledge, reading a paperback. He looked serious. But he was very approachable and eager to cooperate.

Will is a native Sarasotan, having graduated from Sarasota High School. He works at the McCurdy's Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute, about a half mile away. I said that it must be nice to work at a comedy venue where patrons won't get drunk and rowdy. “Yeah. Well, usually (smile).”

“What book are you reading?”

Turned the cover over. “Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe.”

“Wow! Which do you prefer, comedy or nuclear Armageddon?”

“Both. I'm very dualistic.”

I guess so!

Thank you, Will, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing portrait project.


Jordyn (#923) 08-01-15

As I entered Buddy Brew Coffee, another barista (baristess?) was at the counter. After placing my order, I asked if she would allow me to photograph her. “Sure. I've heard that you have been photographing other employees.” Uh oh, the word is out!

Jordyn is from Sarasota, having graduated from Riverview High School 10 years ago. She has held several jobs, but so far Buddy Brew is best.

“Do you see yourself working here indefinitely?”

“Nothing is indefinite. There are lots of things I'd like to do.”

She liked the image and gave me her e-mail address to send it.

Thank you, Jordyn, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Laura (#922) 07-27-15

As I walked by Cafe Clasico, a woman seated in an alcove addressed me. Immediately her light gray hair stood out with the dark background and I was interested. She asked me for financial assistance to spend a night in a shelter. The request was no surprise, but her location at the restaurant was. As usual, I made a 'deal.' Laura was happy to be photographed.

As a child, she lived in Central Islip, NY, just a few miles from where I had lived. Laura has been homeless in Sarasota for 5 years. As we spoke, I slowly realized that I had met, and photographed her before. A couple of winters ago on a cold morning, I met her while she wore a hooded coat. I never saw her hair.

I later went into the restaurant and ordered a bowl of soup. When it came, I told the waiter to take bowl out to Laura, put it on my tab, and not tell her where it came from. A few minutes later the befuddled waiter said that she had already eaten and was no longer hungry. Go figure.

Thank you, Laura, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Then and Now (#921) 26-07-15

I met and photographed Anthony last March. I see him every two or three weeks. The second image is from yesterday. He is proud of how he's 'cleaned up."





Kevin (#920) 07-22-15

Due to oppressive heat, I stayed inside the coffee shop, Pastry Art. Normally I would take an outside table, but this time I sat at a grouping of easy chairs. Close by was a police officer. I introduced myself, the portrait project, and told him that I had photographed only two police officers (later I remembered that the number was four). He smiled and said OK, as long as he didn't have to do anything. I told him that when he finished, I would meet him outside, where the light was flattering.

Kevin has been on the Sarasota Police force for 25 years. I asked if he was a native.

“Oh no, I'm originally from up north.”

“Where up north?”

He looked aside, smiled, and shrugged.

“Is the place so awful that you are embarrassed to say?”

“In my line of work, I am used to asking questions, not answering them.”

This was said with a smile, but I took the cue that more questioning was not a good idea.

A couple of minutes later, he pointed to my camera and asked if it was film. The Olympus OM-D prompts that question so often! I explained that the retro look was a ruse, it was a modern digital camera. Kevin opined that film was probably totally dead, but I explained that there is a niche of photographers who are reviving the use of film. They face stiff headwinds.

Kevin said, “Yeah, film produced shoe boxes of pictures that live under the bed.”

“Yep. Now we take ten times more pictures and print few or none. They never get seen.”

Thank you, Kevin, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Julie (#919) 07-20-15

My friend Brent and I finished with one last stranger. The weather was Hot (with a capital H) and the Buddy Brew Coffee location sounded refreshing. It is located in a covered breezeway with good light, and a breeze. Did I mention it was hot?

One sole young lady was seated drinking her coffee, so I introduced myself and our intent. She looked wary and said, “That sounds kinda weird!” So I further explained and showed her my Photostream on the phone. She reluctantly agreed. Her shirt was wrinkled, but I noticed the word 'Theater'. “Oh yes, I work at the Florida Studio Theater" (one block away).

Julie is from Minnesota, and got a degree in Theater Arts from the University of North Dakota. If one place sounds colder than Minnesota, it's North Dakota. Working at the Florida Studio Theater gives Julie a great source for networking. She hopes to move to the upper east coast or California, where there are more defined seasons.

After she got used to us, she warmed up and was very pleasant. Brent and I was surprised that a theater person would be reticent about being photographed.

Thank you, Julie, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Ellie and Jack (#918) 07-19-15

I met with fellow photographer, Brent, in front of Whole Foods. As I waited I noticed Ellie and James at the next table. They looked tired, and I doubted that they would be interested in a conversation. But when Brent showed up, we approached them and they were very friendly.

They looked tired because they were. They had just arrived at the airport, from London. But they were to change planes in Miami. They missed the connection and spent the night in the airport with no sleep. In this situation, they were very gracious.

They are from Scotland and spent six months in their second house on St. Armands Key. I said that most people would spend the summer at home and winter in Florida. James said, “It's terrible at home. Also cold and rainy.” I said that they should move here, but they only have six month visas.

“Being from Scotland you should like golf.”

“I have never played, but as a coincidence, I used to work in the lounge at Gleneagles.”

“Ellie, did you work there too?”

“No, I am a part time teacher, K -6.”

Crossing the Atlantic a lot, they know airports all to well. Their assessment is that Miami is the worst, JFK and Chicago O'Hare are OK, and Tampa is the best.

Thank you, Ellie and Jack, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Departure #3 (#917) 07-17-15

This is a little different than my usual stranger portraits. Neurochallenge is a local organization that is a resource for Parkinson's Disease patients.

They will soon publish an expanded brochure for new Parkinson's patients in the area. They asked me to photograph some patients, their caregivers, and Neurochallenge staff to include in the publication.

I found a reasonable location immediately outside of the facility and have taken all of the images in the same spot. Here are three, two patients and one caregiver. These people are dealing well, with a devastating disease. I hope that their faces show both difficulties and optimism.

Here are three more Parkinson's Disease patients.

The last image is my wife.


Chris (#916) 07-15-15

I was with another photographer, Brent, who wanted to watch how I approached strangers. We walked down the shady side of Main Street and I pointed out an alcove by the Blue Owl Tavern, and said that I liked the light in there. After walking another 100 feet, I saw Chris heading our way. “Brent, let's turn around”, and we walked back to the alcove. As she arrived (at my spot) I stopped her and made my pitch.

She seemed surprised but was 'game'. Chris was born in California, the east side of L.A. “It's a very tough neighborhood.” Now she owns the State Street Eatery. We promised to eat lunch there, and we did. Her husband is an accomplished landscape photographer. He is a Pulmonary Intensive Care Physician by day, but spends early mornings and evenings behind the camera.

I explained to Chris that I used my camera as a tool, that I could not approach people without one. She understood. “Yeah, it would be weird walking up to folks empty handed.” Chris was in a hurry and left without looking at her images.

Thank you, Chris, for allowing me to photograph you for my ongoing project.


Departure #2 (#915) 07-14-15

Following yesterday's post, these are the four employees of the Neurochallenge Foundation.

I try to get the caregivers and Parkinson's Disease patients in a natural look. The employees are free to smile for the camera if they so wish. And they did.

They are to be applauded for their tireless work in helping patients with a most devastating progressive disease.


A Departure (#914) 07-13-15

This is a little different than my usual stranger portraits. Neurochallenge is a local organization that is a resource for Parkinson's Disease patients.

They will soon publish an expanded brochure for new Parkinson's patients in the area. They asked me to photograph some patients, their caregivers, and Neurochallenge staff to include in the publication.

I found a reasonable location immediately outside of the facility and have taken all of the images in the same spot. Here are three, two patients and one caregiver. These people are dealing well, with a devastating disease. I hope that their faces show both difficulties and optimism.


Laura (#913) 07-12-15

Laura was seated, nibbling a pastry in my favorite covered plaza. The background was OK and she had wonderful rim lighting, but her face was dark. If I used flash or had a reflector, the light would have been perfect, but I had to move her to my “safe spot.”

Laura is from Pennsylvania, but grew up in Englewood, Fl – so did I. She is now a realtor and would love to get a place up north, maybe North Carolina, to escape the Florida summers. I recently learned the term “halfback.” These are folks who originated in the upper midwest or northeast, move to Florida, and later go 'half way back' to North Carolina, north Georgia, or Tennessee.

She approved of the images but had no interest in getting copies or taking my card.

“Laura, is this a good day, or a bad day?”

“It's a good day, I don't have to go in (to work).”


Nicolette (#912) 07-10-15

Twice a week I hit the Gym at 7:30AM, and cannot eat breakfast first. So my great indulgence is breakfast at First Watch, a chain in Florida. I parked a block away and walked, with the camera in the trunk. Mistake. My server was Nicolette, and I immediately knew that I wanted to photograph her. I forget which famous photographer who said that taking pictures was a lot easier if you had a camera.

So I explained my project to Nicolette – fortunately the restaurant was not busy. She was intrigued and was happy to let me come back with the camera after breakfast.

She is from Sarasota and was home schooled. Her parents traveled so much that they were never in one place long enough to start a conventional school. Nicolette is 25 and has been to all 50 states. I explained that I am 67 and have been to about 15. Nicolette smiled in a knowing way.

“Do you plan to be a waitress for long?”

“No, I want to travel.”

Big surprise.

When I returned with the tool of the trade, business had picked up. She came to the front door and said that she only had a minute. I propped the door open and got this shot.


Jerry (#911) 07-08-15

Jerry was sitting at a table in front of Whole Foods with Jackie in his lap. Jackie is a Jack Russell Terrier who is remarkably docile for a normally high-spirited breed. When I first spoke, Jerry said, “Oh, you sound like New York.” Great. Our family left new York a mere 58 years ago. Maybe after 100 years I'll lose the accent.

Jerry is actually Gerhard. He was born in Germany and lived in New York from 1951 – 81. We talked about how the culture in NY has gone downhill. I explained that as a baby, my mother would put me in a carriage and leave me outside while she did her housework. Today, at the very least she would be arrested.

When Jerry walked to first grade (in NY), he could barely speak English. When he walked home, no one was there. A neighbor heard him crying and took him in until his older sister arrived. We reminisced about neighborhoods where people really took care of each other.

While we spoke, his wife Bea arrived. She had a thick German accent and a very expressive face. Alas, she would have no part of being photographed. A woman and young girl passed by, and the child had to stop to pet Jackie. She is Ella, and it made her day.


Valerie and Kevin(s) (#910) 07-07-15

As I walked by Cafe Clasico, a young man and woman were eating in a small alcove surrounded by (dark) ivy. This area has wonderful light for blond hair, but there is not much reflected light to separate dark hair. Blonde Valerie caught my eye and I immediately introduced myself. They were game.

Kevin was wearing a Cafe Clasico shirt and was on break. I explained that I had photographed several of his coworkers. He is from Indiana and is just thrilled to be in Florida.

Valerie is from Minnesota. She graduated from college two years ago. Last year she taught history to middle school students. This year she hopes to teach in High school. I met them on June 17, and teacher positions had not yet been solidified for the upcoming year. I had not realized that there was so much uncertainty about teaching positions.

As we spoke, another Cafe Clasico waiter walked up – my lucky day! “Hi, I am taking pictures of people I have not met. What's your name?” “Kevin.” “Aw c'mon, two Kevins, both at Cafe Clasico?” “Yep! (laugh)” And Kevin #2 just laughed when he saw his image.

Valerie took my card.


Susie (#909) 07-05-15

While sipping my Buddy Brew coffee, Susie came out of the shop and sat in the shaded plaza. I must compliment whoever designed this place, the light is so nice. Well, Susie's hair caught my eye, so I walked over and told her so. “Yeah, lots of people say that.”

Susie is originally from Cleveland, but has lived in Tampa for several years. She lives in Tampa and commutes to Sarasota (~50 miles) every day. “So why not move here?” “I am more than ready, but my partner insists on living in Tampa.”

Susie had worked in a bank in Tampa, but was laid off. Now, in Sarasota, she has a government job. “I pay people's pensions, I'm one of the good guys.” This is more satisfying than working in the bank.

I showed her the image. “My eyes are kind of funky today – allergies.”


Ashleigh (#908) 07-03-15

Ashleigh also works in Buddy Brew Coffee, an extension of stranger #664, but a different day. She likes the job. Buddy Brew has three locations, two in Tampa, and employes about 45 in all. She is an Army brat and constantly moved around. After five years in Sarasota, she is almost ready to hit the road again.

The Sarasota location has been open for about a year. The adjacent restaurant, Louie's Modern used to run it, but it was not successful. Buddy Brew Leased the location and is doing OK. It provides coffee for the restaurant, and Louie's Modern provides sandwiches for Buddy Brew. Between them is a breezeway with wonderful light.

Ashleigh is also enrolled at the University of South Florida, studying English. It hurts her that young people cannot write in cursive, nor look you in the eye while speaking. Internet appliances have changed all that.

While we were speaking, a guy came in for his second cup of coffee. She said that there should not be a third, he would get too jittery. So I told Ashleigh a story that was told to me many years ago – it was about martinis. “Martinis are like a young maiden's breasts, one is not enough, but three are too many.” She liked that.

Then Carlos came in. He is Ashleigh's beau, and was instrumental in her moving from California to Sarasota. He was from Hawaii. Both of them hate humidity, so they are destined to leave.


Jay (#907) 07-01-15

I have met, and photographed, several baristas from the coffee shop, Pastry Art. Now I have moved part time to Buddy Brew Coffee, and will be meeting some of their employes. Such as Jay. He worked for Buddy Brew in Tampa and was sent to Sarasota when this branch opened. Jay is the manager.

Originally he is from Dublin, Ireland, although his brogue is minimal. While living in Ireland he visited Australia and met his future wife there. She is from Brooksville, FL. The compromised on a city to live. He, Dublin, Ireland, she, Brooksville FL, and they settled in Tampa. I think she won. They were married five years ago, and have two kids, 1 and 3. Jay is glad that she can afford to stay home and raise them. In about five months, he'll be transferred back to Tampa, his work here done. Note: the humidity in Florida is greater than in Ireland, if you didn't know.

I asked for coffee after lunch and the big pot was empty. Rather than brew a new pot, he brewed a single cup for me. Jay did not just pour the water in, he gently poured as he moved the carafe around the rim so that all areas received it the same. This attention to detail separates real baristas from coffee shop employees.