Stranger 23/100 – Olivia

Stranger-23–Olivia.jpgOur next stranger has an understated sense of style that caught my eye. When I asked to take her portrait, I got a strong feeling that she would decline. I’m glad she didn’t.

Meet Olivia.

Olivia has lived in New York for a year and a half and was in Charlotte just for the day to give a presentation.

“I’m a cyber crime analyst. People don’t expect that, but that’s what I do. I look at what are the emerging trends and what should we be focusing on.”

What do you do when you’re not working? “I’m really into documentaries. I love watching documentaries. And I’ve started embroidery lately, so I’ve done a couple embroidery projects. I’ve really been enjoying that.”

What made you start that? “I really wanted to do something crafty but I didn’t think that I could do drawing… I’m not talented like that. So I’m trying to do embroidery because it’s like drawing, but it’s ok when you mess up because it’s stitches.”

What else do you do for fun? “I really enjoy seeing the city… I love New York. I’ve been to like hundreds of bars. I like visiting all of the gimmicky, bullshit New York food places. Oh, like spaghetti doughnuts and stuff… I’m like I need a spaghetti doughnut! I love exploring the city and going to different places.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Just relax. I think I’ve always been very driven to the point of not being able to relax at all. It’s a very New York mentality in a way where I just need to be doing something.”

“Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. In high school I never dyed my hair or anything because that’s like so unprofessional, and now I’m like why didn’t I dye my hair pink when I was fifteen?”

It was a pleasure to meet you Olivia. Thank you for being part of my 100 Strangers Project.

Technical Notes: I positioned Olivia in front of a shady, garden area to create a simple, dark background for this natural light portrait.

Stranger 22/100 – Carl

Stranger-22–Carl.jpg“I’m from all over, but recently it was California. I came back for an ex… love will make you do crazy things. It will. I should have never came back, but it’s all good. You live and you learn.”

Meet Carl.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Be yourself and stay focused. I get sidetracked a lot. I have a lot of things I want to do, and I don’t really focus on one thing. I mean, I take pictures, I skateboard and like I do music and I dance. I kind of don’t put enough focus on the one thing and get good at that one thing. I try to do everything at one time. It’s not good.”

“Right now I’m trying to focus on business… I’m trying to come up in the ranks so I can not have to work. That’s really it right now.”

What would you do when you achieved that? “I would definitely start doing some type of giving back in the sense where I would kind of reach younger people and help them change if they’re going through a certain path that a lot of us get caught up in out here. It might help if they had somebody to talk to on that level.”

“I’ve definitely been through some crazy stuff. When I was in California, I was homeless… I lived on skid row for a little while. I didn’t know anybody in California. I was sleeping in a substation behind bushes. I got a dog… I don’t know why homeless people get dogs. I traded my phone for a dog. I would walk him around LA, and I met this guy he had the same kind of dog and we hung out. We hung out for two weeks, and I finally told him I was homeless. He was like ‘Bro, why didn’t you tell me you were homeless? You can stay with me.’ I ended up living right off Hollywood Boulevard. You walk out and the stars are right here.”

“I’ve been through a lot of stages and it’s definitely helped make me who I am. It’s made me very well rounded. So I can pretty much talk to anybody and vibe on different people’s levels.”

It was great talking with you Carl. Thank you for being so generous with your time.

Technical Notes: I took a few shots in the direct sun, but the brim of Carl’s hat cast a harsh shadow on his face. We moved to a shadier area where I captured this more evenly lit image.

Stranger 21/100 – Ming Fouts

100 Strangers - Ming Fouts“I play metal music for Christ…”

Meet Ming Fouts.

Ming Fouts is a drummer who was born in Scotland and has lived in Charlotte since 2009.

Is Ming Fouts your stage name? “It’s just my character. So, imagine me I’m from Scotland with a kilt and some kind of big sombrero. The first track is called ‘Meds of Not’ about the pharmaceutical medicines that are so evil and so sadistic, and it’s poisoning our people.”

“I play metal music for Christ… bone crushing… like Hatebreed meets Slipknot meets Jesus Christ not smoking crack. I’m the Holy Ghost within dude. I’m just a human… half angel, half human.”

“The devil has no power. He is a spirit being that is bound by time and space. He’s running out of time cool dude. That’s the truth. Jesus is love. God is love. And mercy always triumphs over judgment. So I’m just going to sit over here and hope that somebody buys me a hot dog.”

Technical Notes: After only a few shots, I asked for a different pose and he said, “No, that’s good.” The lighting wasn’t very good, so I had to do some extreme editing in Lightroom to get this final image.

Stranger 20/100 – Cash

100 Strangers - CashI was in a bit of a hurry to leave uptown when I spotted this guy. Of course I had to approach him for a portrait.

Meet Cash.

Cash was hanging outside of Prohibition, a local bar, and was there to interview for a barback (bartender’s assistant) position.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Always believe. Don’t give up. Forget what everybody’s saying around them, just focus on the main goal.”

Speaking of goals… “I’m a music artist as well. I do music, and I engineer music. It’s like goth and trap at the same time. I push it together so it’s like rock music but like trap music at once.”

“It’s crazy. It’s a bunch of folks out here. We just gettin’ it. I got a couple people that I do music with, and they got their own thing. They’re blowing up like crazy. They went to LA.”

“I hit 9k on YouTube off my music video, and I hit like 23k on SoundCloud. It’s crazy.”

“My inspiration is really New York. I’m originally from New Jersey and stuff. I’m always going back and forth now… just connecting and stuff. I’m really trying to get to LA… that’s where I really want to go. There’s a lot of cool people out there.”

“Charlotte is coming up. I like Charlotte… it’s really chill. It’s a cool city to get your mind right.”

It was great to meet you Cash and thank you for being part of 100 Strangers.

Technical Notes: Conditions were perfect right where I found Cash. There was soft, indirect light and a dark doorway behind him that made for an excellent backdrop.

Stranger 19/100 – Allison

Stranger-19–AllisonI was standing beside our next stranger waiting to cross an intersection when she stepped into the street a little too early and came rushing back with a giggle.

Meet Allison aka “Allison from the Bronx”.

What brings you to Charlotte? “Actually, I wanted to come to the strip clubs. {laughs}”

Did you find any good ones? “I did. I found one, but I was too shy to ask the girls to dance with me. So, I’ve got a load of dollar bills on me. I might go there tonight and try again.”

“I came here twice before, but I didn’t have a good time. I think it was partially because I was with my mother and she’s a lot older, she’s elderly, so she doesn’t like to do a lot of stuff. And I keep hearing that Charlotte’s poppin’, so I just wanted to come back by myself. I created an itinerary for myself to do things, and I’m actually having a really good time.”

“Yeah, I do this a lot. I travel alone. I went to Phoenix last month, and I found this cute little blues club called Char’s Has The Blues. It was amazing. I went skydiving. I mean… I did everything. I went to a really cute African restaurant, a Guinean restaurant. I’m the type that… I’ll just book a flight and figure it out later.”

“My next trip is in Ouray, Colorado which is supposed to be the Switzerland of America. It’s a little town in a valley about ten blocks long, and it’s surrounded by the San Juan Mountains. Dope.”

Is there going to be enough action you? “Um… probably not, {laughs} but, I’ll figure it out. They have hot springs… I love hot springs. I’ll figure it all out.”

I have a feeling that you will…

What advice would you give your younger self? “Don’t be so gullible. My mom was really overprotective. She really didn’t brace me for the reality of the world.”

Technical Notes: I had photographed Allison in front of a sculpture and was starting to worry that it wouldn’t look good. I asked if I could take one more shot from a different angle, and that’s the one I picked.

Stranger 18/100 – Michayla

100 Strangers - Michayla
I spotted two young women taking pictures of each other in front of Belk Theater. Since they clearly seemed comfortable in front of a camera, I decided to approach them for the project.

Meet Michayla.

Michayla was in uptown to have lunch with her friend. She’s been in Charlotte for two years and is originally from New Jersey where her family still lives.

Michayla is a dance teacher who teaches children’s ballet.

What do you do when you’re not working? “I’m super into interior design. I just bought a house so I’ve been kind of doing that.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t take shit from anyone. Am I allowed to curse? Back in the day I feel like I just wanted to please everyone.”

Have you overcome that or is it a work in progress? “It’s sort of a work in progress. You know I tend to say yes even though I don’t want to.”

What is your biggest challenge? “Just trying to figure out what I want to do and how to do it. I love my career… it’s just kind of a hard career to do. I love my kids. That’s amazing. One of things that is hard about it is, watching them, I wish I could still be dancing.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “I would go on vacation with my boyfriend and buy a house in Jersey.”

Thank you Michayla for being one of my 100 Strangers.

Technical Notes: We had nice even, indirect light that day and the light-colored pavers softened the shadows on her face. I didn’t nail the focus on this one. Perhaps I accidentally focused on the brim of her hat.

100 Strangers - Michayla
There’s something about posing for a camera that causes spontaneous laughing fits.

Stranger 17/100 – Kee

100 Strangers - KeeWhile taking a rest from shooting, I noticed this guy pull up on his bicycle. I asked him if I could take his portrait and he replied “yes” in a friendly and raspy voice.

Meet Kee.

Charlotte is Kee’s hometown and he’s been here since he was born with the exception of his time in the Army and the ten years he lived in Germany.

He told me that he’s thinking about going back to Germany. What do you love about Germany? “The people, the atmosphere, the food and the beer.”

What cities do you like in Germany? “Frankfort because it’s big and it’s quiet. Frankfort and Berlin are the places to be.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Keep a peace of mind and stay in good health. That’s what I tell myself. If I can do that bro, I’m good as gold. It don’t get no better than having peace of mind and good health. Money can’t do that.”

“You can have all the money in the world just like that man that killed all those peoples in Las Vegas. He was a multi-millionaire and what happened? How can you be a millionaire and not be happy? He wasn’t happy. Something was missing. I don’t know what it was. It could be a number of things, but he wasn’t happy.”

“To kill people… what you gonna kill all these… take a gun, put it in your head and shoot yourself. That’s all you need to do. But he did that later on after he finished what he was doing. It’s a sad sight. It’s bad to see man like that these days in that kind of state of mind.”

“I done been trained for Vietnam and I used all kind of weapons… I didn’t come out crazy. I should be crazy as hell out here. Can’t function with people.”

Why were you able to do that when other people can’t? “Where it comes from is they not got no spiritual background. No knowledge of the word of God to fight off the demons… the demons are real. When I came out of the Army, I maintained myself. Then the lord introduced himself to me, you know? But nowadays, men need to have some spiritual knowledge and have the lord in their life so when the fight comes, you can have something to fight them off.”

He asked me about photography. “You know what? I’ve always wanted to do that. I wanted to start on my own and be in photography. That was back when I was young… I’m 61 now. When I was young like back in my twenties, I always wanted to be a photographer. But I got hooked into the window cleaning business.”

“You know what I’m gonna do? I’m going to make an investment either selling cars or doing what you do. I’d go to Africa and all those places. You’d be surprised at the money you can make doing this kind of business.”

Thank you Kee for being one of my most interesting strangers.

Technical Notes: I didn’t want to make Kee move his bike and his stuff, so we stayed in this fairly sunny area. He was backlit, but I was able to bring out his face detail in Lightroom.

100 Strangers - Kee
An alternate shot of Kee relaxing on a street bench.