Monthly Archives: November 2017

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.

Stranger 16/100 – Sharon

Stranger-16–SharonOur next stranger is a fellow photographer that I met while wondering through uptown Charlotte on a Saturday afternoon.

Meet Sharon.

Sharon lives in Charlotte and was out doing some candid street photography. She recently graduated from college and is taking a year off before pursuing her next plan.

What advice would you give your younger self? “Don’t focus so much on the journey that you forget to live for the moment.”

What are your goals? “I’m interested in medicine so I trying to find the next step to get into med school. Short-term goal is to get into med school and then long-term is saving lives both spiritually and physically.”

“Because I feel like so many people are internally broken. Spiritually they are just so hurt. It’s like you can help someone physically, but if you’re not targeting what’s going on spiritually with obesity, heart disease, diabetes and mental health issues… You can use medicine all you want to externally, but internally there’s something that’s impinging on that and not allowing them to completely be healed.”

“A lot of things that happen with cardiology specifically and obesity… you help the person lose ten pounds and then they go right back to gaining another twenty pounds because there’s something going on internally within them.”

We then talked about how healthcare system is guilty of treating symptoms rather than curing patients. “And that’s my goal to change that. It’s horrible that’s all it does is just helps the symptoms and just puts a band aid on someone and then they go back home and do the exact same thing.”

“It’s a whole cycle. It’s a never-ending cycle in the sense that the people in power don’t want to break that cycle. They love it because it’s giving them revenue. And it’s hard for doctors because it’s like we want to be doctors but we can’t go against this policy or else we won’t be able to practice.”

“My long term goal is getting into the World Health Organization to medically and globally impact health.”

It was a pleasure to meet you Sharon. Thank you for brightening my day.

Technical Notes: We were in an open plaza with light grey pavers. The sun was blocked but was reflecting off a nearby building. I normally don’t pose subjects looking straight on, but I chose this shot because it evoked so much power and confidence.

During our photo shoot, I told Sharon in a silly voice “If you want to smile, that would be amaaaazing…” She produced the most exaggerated smile and then proceeded to crack up. As much as I love posed portraits, there’s something special about those natural moments that happen spontaneously.Stranger-16–Sharon ALTERNATE

Stranger 15/100 – Naj

100 Strangers - NajOur next stranger is easily the most stylish man I’ve photographed for this project so far. I saw him walking by just as I was finishing lunch, so I leapt up quickly to approach him for a portrait. Luckily, he said “yes”.

Sensing he was in a hurry to get back to work, I walked with him while we talked.

Meet Naj.

Naj is from New York and was visiting Charlotte for business. You would be forgiven for thinking that Naj is a fashion model, but in fact he’s in the software business. More specifically, he works in the area of Financial Analytics.

His advice to his younger self is “Keep going. Don’t give up.”

Thank you so much Naj for participating in the 100 Strangers Project. I hope our paths cross again one day.

Technical Notes: It was a clear, sunny day, and we were in a shaded area.


An alternate picture of Naj.  I always have people remove their sunglasses before I take their portrait. However, Naj just looked so cool that I had to take a few shots with the shades on.Stranger-15–Naj ALTERNATE

Stranger 14/100 – Joy

Stranger-14–JoySome strangers grab your attention from a mile away…

Meet Joy.

Joy has lived in Charlotte for ten years and works on a creative team for a local bank. She’s also single mother with two young kids. Since she had to get back to work soon, I walked with her while we talked.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t marry the people that you married. {laughs} I’m on the cusp of my second divorce, so that would be just don’t ever do that.” I asked if her advice was to just never get married and she replied, “Just don’t.” She also added that she would tell herself “and that everything will be ok. {laughs}”

What is your biggest challenge? “Single moming is hard. Getting through the divorce stuff is hard. The ex is a little uncooperative. But other than that, life is pretty sweet.”

I thanked her for time and she said, “Good luck with your project!”

Our encounter only lasted about two minutes, but in that short time I got a strong impression of Joy as being grounded, confident, strong and comfortable in her own skin. She seems to have such a positive outlook on life despite experiencing her share of difficulties.

Technical Notes: We ducked under a covered building entrance right next to the street. Given the direction of the light, I had to stand in the street to get the right angle. It was worth it.