Saturday, November 21, 2009

1/100

"Hi. I'm Laura. Can I ask a favor?"

"Sure. What?"

This photograph was the favor I'd asked.
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I love people-watching. It's easy.

Approaching a stranger to ask for their photo is not.
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I'd been pacing up and down the boardwalk for nearly an hour, trying to get up the nerve to approach someone and ask. That in itself was a fun exercise... looking into people's faces for something interesting... imagining the stories one might tell if I worked up the courage to talk to them.

Most wouldn't even make eye contact.
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He'd said no the first time I asked. I smiled and thanked him, but didn't back away. We talked for a bit and eventually, I asked again. He agreed, reluctantly, wanting to remain anonymous. He relaxed enough to tell me about his street art; after thirty minutes or so I felt okay about taking out my camera. He never once froze, or smiled stiffly at me, or stopped talking. It felt kinda like magic, this thing that my camera let happen...
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How would you feel if a stranger approached you for a photo? What might make it enjoyable for you, or not?

So tell me... could you do it? Does the thought of photographing 100 strangers terrify you the way it does me?

It scares me. A lot. I'm shy! That's kinda how I know it's the right thing to do, the right direction to head in to stretch myself in unpredictable and meaningful ways. Once a week I'll try it. It's about photo-making yes, but more about stepping outside my own box and what feels comfortable to me. Maybe I'll get a good photo once in a while. Certainly I'll meet some interesting people who I never would otherwise. A camera is as good an excuse as any, I think.

15 comments:

Deb said...

I do not think I could ever work up the courage to ask a stranger for a photo. Which is why I am not working in journalism I guess.

Susan Gets Native said...

That takes COJONES, girl.
Work it!

KGMom said...

Um, no--I don't think I would ask a stranger if I could take his/her photo.
I'm shy too. I'll stick with inanimate objects--they don't object to being photographed.

WoodSong said...

I give you a heap of credit for even asking. I've never been a 'people photo' taker, and hate my own photo being taken so very much that I just never have gone down that road. But you're right, it's good to step out of our comfort zones.. portraits can often tell a story, so here's to many more stories along your path :)

Rabbits' Guy said...

Big Challenge!

BL carries REALLY good candies with Baily's Irish Creme in them in her pocket. When ever a person gives her a good - or a bad - time, she offers them one. Works wonders. Every day she brings the most amazing stories home!

You'll get tons of interesting experiences and probably light up the days of lots of others too!

Dave said...

It's a terrific photo - a great beginning for the series!

And no, I don't have the courage to photograph strangers, either. My friend Lucas Green says he will sometimes use a companion as a moving blind, or whirl around suddenly and snap a picture of the people behind him in the street. He uses a palm-sized camera for this, and is also among the more outgoing people I've met.

Jayne said...

I am one of those people who never meets a stranger. I talk to people wherever I go, even in the grocery store line...lol... makes my hubby crazy. So, it would probably not be hard for me to ask, but I'd be afraid I'd get a "posed" photo, very unlike this wonderful photo you got Laura. Interesting project. :c)

NCmountainwoman said...

I always ask parents if I may photograph their children, even in public gatherings. I rarely photograph interesting adults and would have difficulty asking.

Ever the skeptic, there is no way I would agree to another person's request to photograph me. I'd be too busy formulating the motives behind the request. My dogs, on the other hand, are frequently the object of photograpers and I readily consent for them.

Jane said...

That's great! Stepping out of your comfort zone takes guts, but usually, I find it's well worth it!
Love the white background - my eyes thank you!

Mike said...

Is this an exercise in building confidence, Laura? It seems like your ability to ask only increases the more you do it. Congratulations on stepping out of your comfort zone!

Floridacracker said...

I bet by number 25 it will be much easier.

LauraHinNJ said...

Deb: Hi... I'm used to having to talk with all kinds of people for my job, but asking for a photo is so... personal somehow.

Susan: Yeah... wish me luck!

KGMom: I agree, but there's something so compelling about the human face and all its expressions.

Cindy: I don't think I'm very good at photographing people... maybe this practice will improve that.

And of course it's the stories I expect to hear that really motivates me!

I didn't share his cause he asked me not to, but it was really interesting!

Rabbit's Guy: LOL! I like the bribe with candy idea!

Dave: Thanks... I resisted the urge to use the one of him smiling and animated and looking at the camera. This felt more like the way I saw him.

Thanks for the link to that site... you have the coolest friends! I love his photos.

;-)

The difference with this 100 strangers project, as I understand it, is that one must ask permission... no candid shots...

Jayne: Funny... somehow I've imagined you all these years as pretty shy!

NCMountainWoman: Ha! I hate having my picture taken and would never, ever let a stranger do it!

LOL!

Jane: Glad your eyes are happier! I'm still changing things a little each day... finding myself back almost exactly where I was before I changed a thing.

(silly)

Mike: I guess that's a part of it Mike, but more important for me is to get more comfortable with portraits and to have an excuse to hear people's stories... I love stories!

Have a look at the Flickr group:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/100strangers/

FC: Maybe, I hope. That or I'll have been refused so often that I'll be really afraid to ask!

RuthieJ said...

I've taken photos of strangers -- usually bikers, but being with people like me helps boost my comfort level and bravery in asking. Not sure whether I could just ask someone on the street, but I think as you progress on this journey Laura, you will become more attuned to people that would be receptive to your request.
That's a very neat photo, btw. You're very talented with a camera.

dguzman said...

You are just about the coolest person I know, you know?

jason said...

You know, Laura, this is a brave and delightful and very cool project. I can't wait to follow it through and see how it goes. What a marvelous idea!

And by the way, this photo is stunning in so many ways. I'm glad you didn't accept the first 'no'...