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day 10: 100 strangers

August 10, 2010

You never forget your first. His name was Oliver. He sported a well groomed handle bar moustache. I wanted to twirl it around my fingers. He had an icelandic accent and the kindest smile known to man.  I approached him one morning at breakfast. We talked about raekjuostur (shrimp spread) and graflax. Ours was not a conversation meant for seducing. I was merely talking about fish while I worked up the courage to ask him to take his photo. “Can I take your photo?“, I finally blurted out after he finished describing the traditional sweet mustard dill sauce. I couldn’t resist. His moustache was taunting me, begging to be commemorated. He was shy (they always are) but he said yes and looked away and laughed.

CLICK! 1 stranger down, 99 left to go.

I started participating in the 100 strangers project (number 29 on this list) when I went to Iceland in April (it’s always easier to begin such things abroad, then work your way home). Why I embarked on this project is anyone’s guess because I don’t particularly enjoy portrait photography (in fact, I downright dislike it). I mean, let’s face it, these photos aren’t the best I’ve ever taken. It’s a wonder any of them are in focus as I was barely aware of what I was doing at the time, wanting to simply shoot and run away from the awkward situation. But I think that eventually, I will become more comfortable with it. I was speaking with Jonathan Clark, one of my favorite street photographers in Montreal and I asked him: how do you do it, how do you approach people, how to you make them feel comfortable? He answered, “enthusiasm goes a long way”. Enthusiasm, I can do and I do love me a good story so I suppose that is reason enough for me to push on through.

no 2. The beautiful black man at Café Olimpico in Montreal. Seriously, have you ever seen such a beautiful man? I was sitting there with Leonie, telling her how much I wanted to take his photo but didn’t have the guts to ask. Before I knew it, she had approached him and was asking: “Excuse me sir, my friend over there would very much like to take your photograph, would you mind terribly?”. It felt like high school all over again when your friend tells the guy you like that you like him. Still, I got up and took the shot and asked his name (which I forgot in my frazzled state) and said thank you so much, you have such a great sense of style and I just felt compelled. Insert flustered, shy, blabbering etcetera here.

no 3. Joe Junior’s diner. My last morning with the English boy. We decide that an all american greasy spoon diner is in order for breakfast (given previous night’s alcohol consumption). This is where the locals meet, where the eggs are cooked over “very” easy, the HP sauce is on every table, the coffee is bottomless and the breakfast comes cheap. I ask our waiter if I can take his photo. “Ok. Do you want me to smile?”, he asks. I say, yes. He smiles (that is his smile, for serious). I take the shot and thank him. He pours us another cup of coffee, then brings us the bill. Behind him, at the counter, an old man sits on a stool and eats a muffin with a fork and knife.

no 4. The NYC fire fighter was fairly easy to approach as he was essentially posing in front of the fire station, just waiting for the opportunity.

no 5. The homeless friends with the winking dog. Is it cheating to ask for a photo after giving someone money?  They were traveling through New York. She seemed like a really sweet girl. He was battling addiction. I always wonder how that happens. How you find yourself on the streets. I didn’t inquire but I know that I’ll someday work up the courage to ask the story.

no 6. Marty. At least, I think his name is Marty. He looks like a Marty, doesn’t he? Marty works at the US Post Office (on 4th Ave near East 14th, I believe). Never before have I been greeted by a post office clerk with a such a hearty “Wassup?” (I’m not joking. He said Wassup?) Certainly not one approaching his golden years. And his giant glasses and big white dentures added to the humor of it all. I was so enthralled by everything that he was that I snapped his photo in a hurry and it came out blurry. It’s a crap photo but I will never forget the jubilant post office clerk who’s name I can’t recall. Damn it! I think it’s Marty. He does look like a Marty, doesn’t he?

no 7. Do dogs count? Even if you ask permission from their owners? No eh? Still. Worth it for the doggles alone, yes?

6 strangers down, 94 left to go.


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14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2010 9:25 pm

    Oh, I love this challenge! Why? I have no idea. But it sounds so hard, and fun at the same time. I am not a photographer, but hmmmm.

  2. August 10, 2010 9:51 pm

    oh la la…that number two is simply gorgeous. i think i would like to take his picture too!

    *wink*

    oh, oops, that’s right, happily married!

  3. August 10, 2010 11:23 pm

    Awesome! I love this idea. Can’t wait to watch the journey unfold 😀

    ~WW

  4. August 10, 2010 11:30 pm

    i so admire you for starting this, someday i might try to do it, but man, am i too damn shy at this point. rock on for starting….rock on!

    x

  5. August 11, 2010 5:06 am

    #2 dude was so totally gorgeous. and guy #1 = awesome. oh and the dog.

  6. Alison permalink
    August 11, 2010 5:28 am

    Great idea. Fun, challenging and daring. And yea, I think that last guy just might look like a Marty. 🙂

  7. Christina Caron permalink
    August 11, 2010 5:59 am

    Great project. I’m looking forward to the 94 other strangers. That black man really has a “je ne sais quoi” about him. He’s my fav.

  8. August 11, 2010 10:18 am

    and um, (instert blushing stutter here), yep….b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l man whose name you were too jitterbuggy to remember. go figure, right? 😉

  9. August 11, 2010 3:13 pm

    I have to say, you are definitely right about that black man…he is probably the most beautiful man I have seen in ages…and what style!!! *swoon*

    I am in the process of the 100 strangers project myself(http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniemh/sets/72157622558405532/) and am at 15 and it’s taken me AGES…like over a year. Seriously. I get a little bit anxious about taking the photos I really want to take.
    But I enjoy it and I’ve actually never had anyone say no to a photo being taken as long as you are polite and sincere. Way to go! Can’t wait to see the rest 🙂

  10. Ashley Erin permalink
    August 11, 2010 4:29 pm

    Kudos to you for starting this project! I have thought of it, but I don’t feel confident enough in either my portrait abilities or my talking to strangers abilities.

    And that puppy, in the doggles… Awesome. 🙂

  11. August 11, 2010 6:52 pm

    i think that marty looks more like a dennis. ;-D
    beaming with pride for you, girl. have always wanted to do this, but we always seem to be rushing rushing rushing. take a breath and go for it, you can do it!

  12. August 12, 2010 9:53 am

    LOVE this! Thank you!

  13. August 12, 2010 7:09 pm

    Wow. This post captivated me both by the photos and the writing. I think that it’s amazing how much people are willing to be in photos if you ask, but it’s something that is still out of my comfort zone.

  14. August 13, 2010 5:27 am

    Oooh, this is inspiring. Lovely photos…each one with its own story.

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