100 Strangers Project, Set 12

The last 20 portraits, 1/5th of the project, was shot in one very busy weekend; I shot 10 on Saturday, and 10 more on Sunday.

It wasn't planned that way, though. I had planned to shoot Saturday, and I had hoped that by the end of the day, I'd be within striking distance of the 100th portrait. But, honestly, I figured I'd need at least a couple more weekends to wrap things up. I figured maybe I could get 6-8 portraits on Saturday, with an outside chance of 10. Looking back, 10 portraits in a single session was the best I'd ever done. Then, I figured, another 6-8 next weekend, and again on the weekend after that. So I was estimating three, maybe four more sessions over two weeks to have the shooting wrapped. It wound up being just two days.

But this wasn't a race. This wasn't about numbers, either. Still, I had been working on this project in one way or another since July last year, and I was looking forward to its completion.

By this time, I had the formula down. And I had a great day on Saturday. Lots of interesting characters. Kicked things off with Tammy, Stranger 81. Her short hair caught my eye, as well as her dog, a pit bull named "Nahla" that Tammy had recently adopted.

What I really like about this photo is Tammy's expression. I read it as shy, reserved, but confident. Others I've shown in to read it as somber, perhaps even a bit vulnerable. Still, others read it as just plainly neutral. I find it interesting how different people react to those portraits in which the subject is not smiling, and where the emotional state of the subject is subtler, and harder to read.

Tony, Stranger 82, a science fiction author from Brooklyn. His latest novel is about a dystopian future in which a new ice age threatens the world. In the story, the government steps in and assumes control of all resources and citizens, but this foments a rebellion.

We talked some more about our favorite science fiction books and movies. I suggested a few titles I thought he should check out. He gave me his card and told me I made his day. He was definitely one of the more interesting characters I've met.

JoJo, Stranger 83. He was a great subject to work with, especially because as someone who appreciates photography himself, I knew he would give me more time to shoot. So I used that time to perfect the lighting, and to pose JoJo to show his camera, as well as his sleeve of tattoos. That camera, by the way, is a Leica rangefinder. After shooting JoJo's portrait, he took a picture of me with the Leica. We chatted a bit about photography and I got a chance to handle the Leica and look through the viewfinder. It's super light-weight, as you'd expect, solid, and I really liked the viewfinder display. Now if only they weren't so expensive.

Coy, Stranger 84, from Corona, California. A big, imposing man. I was a little intimidated when I approached. But there was no need to be. He was a gentleman with a great sense of humor. He gave me a sincere and honest expression, which made for a good portrait.

Kelly, Stranger 85. It was the unusual print on her shirt that caught my eye. And she had just been to the art museum. So I figured an art appreciator would be a definite "yes". But she was a no, at first. I think she might have sensed some stranger-danger from me. I realize, of course, how unusual it is to approach strangers and ask for a portrait, so I'm not unprepared for this situation. I explained to Kelly a little more about the 100 Strangers Project. I showed her some examples on my iPhone. She agreed to a portrait, but I think she was still reluctant. Even though I got a decent portrait, and there's no trace in the picture of any discomfort, I'm not sure that I really won her over. If I had it to do over again, and I sensed real hesitation, I would have just said thank you anyway, and let her go. The last thing I want is to make anyone uncomfortable. I even briefly considered not using this picture, but it's still a record of the interaction I had with Kelly, and my main goal was to interact with my subjects and deal with my shyness; the photography was secondary, so in that sense, it still worth something, so I decided to show it.

Ruben, Stranger 86, like a Mexican version of King Leonidas from The 300. A hard-light was an obvious choice. After the shot, he asked if I do weddings. He and his fiancee were in the market for one. But I don't do weddings, of course. Still, I didn't mind the job offer.

Mikayla and Shannon, Strangers 87 and 88, aspiring models. As it happened, they were in the middle of their own photo shoot when I saw them. I was sure they would say yes, if only their photographer didn't mind. And she didn't. She appreciated what I was doing and we chatted a bit about the Humans of New York blog. We're both fans. So I was able to borrow both models for a quick portrait. When I showed Mikayla her portrait on my camera LCD, she exclaimed: "Wow that's spare ally good! You have to send me that!" Models always need good photos of themselves to use in their portfolios, and I was glad I could provide one.

Rick and Chelsea, Strangers 89 and 90. I spotted them sitting at the top of the stairs at the Natural History Museum. Chelsea had a Polaroid camera that was probably older than me, so I had to go check it out, and ask for a portrait at the same time. I learned that Chelsea is working towards a master's degree in Neuropsychology at SDSU, so she and Nick had something to talk about. Also, I learned that she's a ENFJ  (also known as "The Giver") on the Myers-Briggs Type-Indicator. Nick and I are both INTJ's (also known as "The Scientist"). After taking Chelsea's portrait, she made a picture of me with the Polaroid.

And with that, it was time to wrap. Ten portraits for the day. And not only that, I was 10 for 10; I approached 10 people and got 10 portraits, so I was petty happy about that. I was at 90 total and figured I could finish next weekend, but later that night, Nick and Katherine said let's go again tomorrow. I was tired, but I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

The next blog post will cover the last 10 portraits. After that, I thought I might put together some "outtakes", maybe some alternate shots, and maybe a blog post about the overall experience. We'll see.