Stranger 36/100 – Nicole

100 Strangers - NicoleI heard intense laughter in the distance. Following the sound, I came across a group of four friends taking pictures of each other.

Meet Nicole.

What advice would you give your younger self? “To travel more and just become more experienced in life.”

How would your friends describe you? “Crazy, funny… I don’t care what other people think. I just do me.”

“I teach kindergarten in a dual language program. I teach the English portion and then my partner does Spanish.”

What is your biggest challenge? “The school system is crazy right now, so it’s a lot that they’re putting on teachers. I’m just trying to juggle the love of teaching as well as the demands of what the state and the nation are putting on teachers.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “Travel the world. I would move abroad… South America, that’s where I’m actually planning next year, South America and Central America.”

Is there a particular country…? “Right now, I’m looking at Nicaragua and Bolivia.”

Technical Notes: This photo was taken with natural light on a clear, sunny day in a shaded area. I chose this photo because I liked the mix of warm and cool light on Nicole’s hair.

Stranger 35/100 – Max

Stranger-35–Max.jpgApproaching complete strangers on the street can be difficult work. That’s why it was so refreshing when our next stranger approached me.

Meet Max.

Max was riding his mountain bike through the busy streets of Charlotte. When he saw me with my camera, he gave me the universal ‘take a picture’ sign and pointed to himself. Of course I said yes.

Max seemed rather stoic at first, so I started talking him up by saying, “You don’t have to smile. You can smile if you want to… it’s not required.” Max let out a small chuckle and then burst into a big smile. That’s the moment I captured in this shot.

What brings you uptown? “Bike riding as you can see. Just getting my adrenalin rush going through the traffic in and out of cars… closest to a car as I can get. Got to live on the edge.”

Are you a student or do you work? “I’m at CP (local community college) right now getting my associates in fine art in music. Throughout high school, I was in the marching band. Right now… I’m trying to major in music education and music technology. So, I’m trying to be a band director, but make music also.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Stay positive… definitely stay positive. And don’t fall into what society wants you to be. Be your own image.”

Amen. And is that something you’ve had trouble doing? “Yeah, because growing up, I have a physical disability, growing up was like ‘Oh, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You’ll never be this, you’ll never be that.’ So, trying to stand out, growing up, was a big thing for me. Because I already stood out, but trying to stand out from what people thought of me.”

Did that make you want to fit in even more? “At first it did, but then I realized trying to fit in isn’t going to get it… stand out. You got to really focus on what you want to do in life and where you want to go, not where your friends are going or where you think you want to be. Where do you want to go? And then maybe from there, you can figure out how you want your life to be.”

Is there anything you want to say to the people who read this? “Stay positive, keep an open mind and do what you love doing.”

Words to live by… Thank you so much Max for telling us what life is all about.

Technical Notes: This natural light photo was taken on a sunny day in an open plaza.

Stranger 34/100 – Peyton

100 Strangers - PeytonI found our next stranger sitting in The Green during the golden hour just before sunset.

Meet Peyton.

Peyton was uptown with her male companion, Sheldon, to visit Discovery Place (a local hands-on science and technology museum), but it turned out to be closed.

What do you do for fun? “I watch movies, and I hang out with my friends a lot.”

What music do you listen to? “It’s either classic rock or country.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Try more things maybe like branch out. I was kind of shy, so I didn’t really try a lot of stuff.”

What are your goals? “I want to go to Clemson University.”

I told her that’s where I went to college. “Really? You went to Clemson! Gosh, I love that school. Some of my family are around there, and so we’ve just always been fans of the school. My grandma has been a super-fan since the eighties. They were there when the new library was opened. I just love the campus so much.”

“I want to major in English or Communications and be an editor. I’d love to be a book editor, but that’s not very realistic so probably just a business editor.”

Where would you want to live? “If I was by myself or with a roommate or something, then, yes, big city. As soon as I got a family, I would want to move to the suburbs.”

Do you have any causes that you work for? “Well, I volunteer at Holy Angles a lot. It’s little place in Gaston County. It’s sort of like a nursing home, except it’s for kids and adults with mental disabilities.”

Thank you so much Peyton for being part of my 100 Strangers Project.

Technical Notes: Peyton was already sitting with her back to the sun, so I decided to try to capture a backlit photo. Luckily, the light bouncing off a building was bright enough so that her face was still lit up. I lowered the color temperature in Lightroom to reduce the orange cast and to introduce the cooler green tones.

Stranger 33/100 – Samiah

Stranger-33–SamiahWhat brings you to uptown? “Food!”

Meet Samiah.

“I just graduated high school. I don’t actually have a job. I’m trying to save money for school.”

What do you hope to study? “Political science and psychology.”

What do you do in your free time? “At home with my brothers. Reading, writing, I really like art and things like that, so I do that in my spare time.”

What kind of art do you do? “More like a mixed media thing. I’m not the best painter. I can draw pretty well. I really like putting things together, overlapping textures and things like that.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “That it makes a difference to be prepared for anything. So, kind of take into account anything that can go wrong and prepare yourself for it, so that you’re not allowing yourself to get overwhelmed.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “I would hire the best lawyer to get my name changed so that I can go ahead and start school. Because that’s the only reason I’m not able to start now. I would buy my parents a house so they could stop paying rent. And then the rest of that money would help me get through my bachelors and masters degree and my own house somewhere in the mountains. I like the cold.”

Tell me more about the name change. “My family is Jewish, so we often don’t give our children their names until a week or so after they’re born. My name was never fixed and I’m now eighteen and when I went to apply for school and scholarships, I realized that my name doesn’t match all my records for North Carolina, so I couldn’t accept any of my scholarship money.”

“My name… doesn’t exist outside of North Carolina and my social security card, birth certificate all have the wrong name on it.”

Is that going to be a big deal? “It has been which is why I’m trying to fix it. {laughs}”

Technical Notes: This photo was taken in an open area off the sidewalk in front of some dark windows. I’ve wanted to shoot a portrait here for a while because of the nice dark background but was never able to find a good stranger nearby until today.

Stranger 32/100 – Kevin

Stranger-32–Kevin2.jpgWhen I told our next stranger that I was finding interesting people and taking their portrait, he responded, “But I’m not very interesting.”

Meet Kevin.

Kevin was in Charlotte for a job interview. He measures in at 6 feet 8 inches tall and is one of the few strangers that I’ve had to crane my neck to look up to.

He’s from South Carolina and will graduate in December from Furman University studying Economics.

Charlotte is a good place to be for that… “Yes, lot’s of opportunities.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “I would start networking a lot earlier than I did. Because I feel like, once I started networking, a sea of opportunities opened up to me. It’s just so much faster.”

“Don’t wait until your sophomore year, sophomore year is late. You’ve got to begin to have a conversation about what you want to do and what your interests are and start pinning what you want to be, what you like and what you’ll do based on your abilities.”

What do you do in your free time? “I played basketball for many years. I watch sports. I love to watch basketball and soccer. I read the newspaper. I’m very interested in the markets and politics. There’s so much going on that affects your life. So I started diving into that to make sure that I remain current and informed.”

I asked him where he wants to be in twenty years and told me he eventually wants to own his own business. He commented that my questions sounded like a job interview. I told him that perhaps this was a good warm up for his real interviews.

Technical Notes: We were in a shaded area with light bouncing off the buildings across the street. I stood on my toes and stretched to get the camera as close to eye level as possible.

Stranger 31/100 – Mary

100 Strangers - MaryAfter being out for two hours and not finding any strangers I wanted to photograph, I was just about to get in my car and leave empty handed. Fortunately, our next stranger appeared and saved the day.

Meet Mary.

“We’re here for a wedding. We’re actually from Tallahassee, Florida. I just graduated in August from Florida State University.”

What did you study? “International Affairs and Economics”

“I’ve been a photographer since I was ten or eleven and so that’s what I really want to do.”

What kind of photography do you want to do? “Cocktail and portrait photography… like product photography for cocktails. Beautiful effervescent things.”

“I’ve been a professional waitress for a very long time… about eleven years now, so I do that primarily. Yeah, I take pictures and I just graduated and I don’t know what I’m really going to do with my life.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “None of this will matter in five years. Don’t fear anything.”

How would your friends describe you? “{Turning to her friends} I don’t know. How would you guys describe me?”

Her friends said, “Outgoing, full of energy, very friendly, bright, makes friends with everybody. Very positive spirit.”

Is that natural or did you learn that? “I’m not really sure. I was home schooled, so I think that has something to do with the fact that I’m just very loving.”

Were you home schooled all the way through high school? “I went to one year of high school and one year of middle school. Which is interesting.”

And did you like it? “No, I wanted to continue being home schooled.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “I would buy that lens {pointing to the 50mm lens on my camera}. Because that’s what I’ve been saving up for. And I would buy my mother and my grandmother a house on a ranch somewhere in the mountains. And then I would invest… and I would probably buy a restaurant and bar. And just perpetuate everything that I love, I suppose. And then like donate to some wolf refuge or something… {laughs}”

Do you have a philosophy on life? “The only thing that’s real is love.”

She then asked, “Will you take another one now that I know you?” We then walked across the street to an old brick building that we both liked and took several more pictures.

Technical Notes: We had perfect conditions with a partly cloudy day and lots of bright, even light.

100 Strangers - MaryAn alternate picture of Mary.

 

Stranger 30/100 – Donna

100 Strangers - DonnaOur next stranger’s bright clothes and beautiful skin caught my eye as I strolled through The Green. As I set up to take her portrait, she said, “I’ve always wanted to be a model.”

Meet Donna.

Donna was in Charlotte for a conference and came all the way from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. “About thirty miles outside of Detroit, so I actually work in the city of Detroit for the mental health agency there.”

She’s been working in the field of mental health since 1997. “Twenty years working in the field of mental health research. I first started out working with people who have developmental disabilities and now focused more on people with mental illness.”

What do you do when you’re not working? “Hanging out with the grands.”

How many grandkids do you have? “Eight. So, the oldest is eighteen and the youngest is two. Yeah, we have them at every grade level.”

“The other thing that we’re doing is looking at starting a housing project for people who are under-resourced. I’m hoping that part of it can go through my job, but then we’ll also have our own business venture where we house people who are under-resourced, but not as desperately as some of the people I work with. So we’re planning, reading, researching that end of it.”

She and her husband are looking to relocate to a warmer climate, possibly in Western North Carolina. Their general plan is to find a log cabin near a body of water.

Technical Notes: This photo was taken in the direct sun creating a warm, bright feel.