Monthly Archives: March 2018

Stranger 71/100 – Paola

Stranger-71–Paola.jpgStranger 71/100 – Paola

While at Freedom Park shooting some video for a project, I ran into our next stranger who was waiting for a client.

Meet Paola.

What brings you to Freedom Park? “I’m doing a photo shoot. I’m a photographer as well. I have some people coming to take some family photos.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “To appreciate the little moments. Those are the most important ones. When you’re living them, you don’t realize… then you miss them when they’re gone.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Well, I just moved… settling down, finding a new job.”

What are your goals? “Just have a stable career, be married for sure, maybe have a family.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “I’ll buy a nice house. Open a nice photography studio. Help my family like buy them homes. Invest in some properties… oh my gosh, many things. Buy me a lot of pets because I love animals. {laughs}”

How would your friends describe you? “Very extrovert, sensitive, artistic. Sometimes very temperamental. Perfectionist.”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day. I used a reflector to add more light to Paola’s face.


Stranger 70/100 – Julio

Stranger-70–Julio.jpgStranger 70/100 – Julio

“Turn off your tech, and go outside and make love.”

Meet Julio.

“I’m currently an artist in residence at the McColl Center.”

What kind of art do you do? “My background is in illustration, and I’m self taught. As I come across new techniques and new materials, I typically work with other artists who have the skillsets to manipulate those materials to the specifications of my drawings.”

“I’m very much into pre-Columbian art… Mayan specifically. So I had this idea — what would Mayans have done if they had different techniques or tools or materials ? What if they were up north and they needed a headdress and could knit? What would their Mayan headdress look like? And so I met someone who does really good knitting and they were able to make my design.”

“A lot of the stuff I do is kind of identity-based I guess. So like looking into my Latin heritage. This other project I’m doing is based on Day of the Dead.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “My biggest challenge would be figuring out how to make the balance… do you work the corporate job and do the art? I’m getting married next year, and I’d like to have kids. Talking with some of the artists it’s like how do you support kids and live the life? How do you not sell out? Like does it even matter? So that’s the biggest challenge, but I think most people go through that in one way or another.”

What’s the difference between good art and bad art? “I’m not a good person to ask. I don’t like a lot of art. It’s like porn — you know it when you see it.”

Does art have to say something? Does art have to make a statement? Or can it just be what it is? “Good art usually does.”

Does it have to be intentional? “No, sometimes you can just have a little mistake you know? But I think it should say something even if it’s just to piss people off just for the sake of pissing people off and pushing buttons. Even at that level, you have enough thought to know the other side.”

If you could put up a billboard in Charlotte, what would it say? “Turn off your tech, and go outside and make love.”

Technical Notes: We were in a shady area, so I used a small reflector to bounce some light from below. I bumped up the color temperature a few notches to give the portrait a warmer feel.


Stranger 69/100 – Ben

100 Strangers - BenStranger 69/100 – Ben

While talking with Reggie (stranger #26), I noticed our next stranger walking by and had to approach him.

Meet Ben.

“I just got here. I was living in London so… I’ve been here before, and I liked it.”

Just visiting? “No, actually, I think I’m going to probably move here for a few months and then go back to London. Because, there, you’re only allowed to stay for six months if you don’t have a work visa, and I couldn’t get one.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “That is tough. Wait to get married. Yeah, I got married too early.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Trying to stay in London. {laughs} Because my girlfriend bought a house there and… you can buy a house there, but you can’t stay there. So, we’re both working on getting our visas to stay. She’s going back to school. I’m a chef. They have a shortage of chefs there. I could get a job there easily it’s just the problem is getting a visa. So you have to be sponsored by the restaurant, and that costs a lot of money. And a lot of places have to be licensed in order to do that.”

Where do you want to be in ten years? “Own my own restaurant. Have a rock and roll band.”

What do you play? “Everything. I don’t sing. That’s the only thing I don’t do. I can’t sing. Before I moved to the UK, I was in Philadelphia, and my girlfriend and I had a band. I mean we just used our computer and GarageBand to do pretty much everything and record.”

What kind of music do you make? “Myself, it’s more like early California death rock… little bit of Goth and punk in it.”

What kind of bands would be similar? “Christian Death, maybe early T.S.O.L.”

If you could put up a billboard in Charlotte, what would it say? “My dad always told me if you live long enough, strange shit will find you. I think that’s been very true in my life.”

Technical Notes: I interviewed Ben while we walked and searched for better light. We stopped here and there, took some photos and continued walking. This was one of the last pictures I took. I used a small reflector to even out the light on his face.


Stranger 68/100 – Shima

100 Strangers - ShimaStranger 68/100 – Shima

“We’re from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, so we’ve come a long way.”

Meet Shima.

“So, we’re here for this convention (Termis, a medical convention focusing on regenerative medicine) as poets… we’re spoken word poets. We’re doing poems on stem cell therapy and regenerative tissue engineering.”

Now how does poetry relate to that? “We write poetry about that. We have a doctor, a patron of the arts person, who’s brought us here kind of on his dollar. He just kind of fed us material and literature from his practice and we wrote poems based on those documents.”

Are you trying to be as interesting as possible? “{laughs} Yeah, we ration it. {laughs} But, yeah, so that’s why we’re here.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “To my younger self, I would say… speak my truth from my guts. Because I think that’s the one thing I didn’t do very often when I was like in my early twenties.”

What woke you up? “A massive mental health crisis actually… and then I recovered through poetry. So, I just kept writing, got gigs, got jobs, furthered my skills with creative writing instruction as well as spoken word.”

So it was writing poetry that helped… “Yeah, the writing and the performance aspect. The performance aspect is becoming more and more prominent and prevalent in my life.”

How would your friends describe you? “My friends would describe me as strong, generous, probably like a little bit moody, moody is the thing, outspoken… and I guess wise. My pen name is Dwennimmen, it’s a West African name, from a dictionary of symbols called Adinkra. It means strength, humility, learning and wisdom. That’s why I chose it as a pen name.”

What is your biggest challenge now? “My biggest challenge is to cobble some kind of a living out my skills and education. I’m a spoken word poet, and there’s not a lot of paper in that.”

You just gotta grab that big spoken word poetry money… “Yeah, you know, I just gotta reach out and take it. {laughs} It’s an interesting thing trying to create a job description out of that or trying to find a role in my local economy that will keep those skills sharp and keep me rejuvenated and healthy. Because that is something that pulled me out of my crisis… it’s like I have to keep doing it.”

Technical Notes: This stranger encounter was a comedy of technical errors. About a third the way in, I realized that my camera was set to f11 aperture. Those pictures came out dark and flat. While trying to hastily fix the camera settings, I somehow switched the camera to manual mode. Then I ended up taking the rest of the photos in whatever settings were already dialed in which produced overexposed images. I was sick when I got home and discovered this. However, I was able to convert this image to black and white, dial down the exposure and add contrast and coloring. Ironically, all of those errors forced me to be more creative in Lightroom and helped me produce an image that I wouldn’t have otherwise created.

Stranger 67/100 – Remedy

100 Strangers - Remedy“Hope, peace and happiness… that’s what I feel. That’s all the lesson we need right now.”

Meet Remedy.

Remedy, his real name, was born and raised in Charlotte and is a supervisor working at the airport.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Pursue your dreams and be steadfast in them… that’s what I’d tell myself.”

What brought that to you attention? “Seeing everybody else moving forward in life. I’m trying to do the same thing.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Myself, work and myself again. It’s up to you to move forward in life. I’m doing alright. I’m drawing more, dancing more… trying to do more of my passion.”

What do you draw? “I’m an upcoming tattoo artist. Yeah, I’m working on that most importantly. But, I’m trying to put my artwork online and have people look at it more.”

So, how does a tattoo artist get started? Do you have to mess up a bunch of people’s bodies before you get good at it? “Nope. Don’t touch nobody until you’re confident… until you know in your heart that you’re ready.”

Is there a way to practice on non-humans? “You can practice on yourself, pig skin, stuff like that.”

Pig skin… are you serious? Does it act just like human skin? “Just like regular skin, yeah… or fruit, mangos, stuff like that.”

What are your goals? “Have my own tattoo parlor and my own dance studio… things of that nature. Fashion…”

Fashion… tell me about that. “I’m very into fashion. I make my own clothes sometimes.”

How would your friends describe you? “Some say quiet, some say bubbly, outgoing, stuff like that. It varies. {laughs}”

Do you maybe act differently around different people? “Yeah, it’s dependent on the connection between the person… how I open up.”

As we were saying goodbye, Remedy said, “It’s pretty cool coming out and viewing the world and letting people see it from your eyes.”

Thank you Remedy for being part of my 100 Strangers Project.

Technical Notes: We were next to a large building with a bright beam of sunlight shining down on Remedy’s face. I used a reflector to even out his face. The holiday lights on the trees behind him added to the ambience.

Stranger 66/100 – Doug

Stranger-66–Doug.jpgWhat brings you uptown? “Just homelessness…”

Meet Doug.

How long have you been homeless? “This stint… I’ve been about three months out here.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Stay in school… I stayed through high school just enough to graduate, and then I had to get away… from my father. My mother had passed, and I got away from daddy. Anyway, I’ve just been on edge since then.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “My biggest challenge is staying warm. It’s nothing to keep fed in Charlotte if you’re homeless. They have so many soup kitchens, so many ministries that feed the homeless.”

“Finding steady, gainful employment that pays me what I’m worth. I can go to a labor pool and work for $7.50 an hour. I’m not going to do that… been there, done that. I just would like to have a job where I can make enough money to support myself, take care of myself, pay my bills and survive.”

“I’m from the old school, Dan. I was born in ’65…”

I was born in ’68… “Ok, well, we’re in the same generation. I’m an old school… you go knock on doors. ‘Hey Mr. so and so. How are you doing? Can I fill out an application?’ It’s not like that anymore. You know, you’ve got to go online, and I’m very computer illiterate. And I’m dyslexic in a way, so to go online and fill out these applications is just somehow overwhelming for my mind, but that’s something I’m working towards.”

I would think it’s hard to get a job while you’re homeless. “I don’t even have a phone. I fill out an application… phone number… none. Come on, who’s going to hire that?”

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about the homeless? “I wouldn’t call it a misconception, but just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re mentally deranged. What I don’t like is, Dan, when people perceive you and label you. You know, they see me homeless and they perceive me to be a degenerate, wacko, someone who doesn’t have any ambition to want to better themselves.”

There’s some people who say you shouldn’t give money to the homeless, and there’s other people who say you should. Why is there such a disagreement? “Because of the homeless that are out here, who are not mentally ill, they’re 99.8% alcoholics or drug addicts. Which I’m an alcoholic myself… I drink everyday if I can. You just got to be able to handle your disease as it is and maintain yourself. As far as giving money to the homeless, that’s not the way. Because 99.9% of the time, you’re throwing it away. You might as well set it on fire and throw it in the street. Because most of us are alcoholic and drug addicts, and what money we do get, we’re going to spend on alcohol and drugs.”

What is your passion? “Writing…”

“In Arianna’s Eyes
In Arianna’s eyes, I see light and hope
I see a woman and friend
I see a cold, hard reflection of a man I could never pretend”

{ Doug recited the entire poem, but didn’t want me to print the entire work here because he hadn’t copyrighted it yet. }

“It’s all a matter of perception and how you look at life and how you perceive your situation. A lot of these jokers out here, Dan, they’ve given up. They’ve just thrown in the towel. I’m only 52. I figure I’ve got 20 good years left if the good lord’s willing… But it was good talking to you man.”

Note: As a general rule, I haven’t approached homeless people for this project to avoid exploiting them in any way. In this case, Doug reached out to me suggesting that I should profile the homeless people of Charlotte.

Technical Notes: Doug was sitting in a poorly lit bus shelter. It wasn’t an option to move somewhere with better light because he had so many belongings with him. He was extremely backlit, so I used a strong reflector to completely light up his face.

Stranger 65/100 – Jessie

100 Strangers - JessieWhat brings you uptown? “Painting.”

Meet Jessie.

“Yeah, I used to paint a lot of people. I used to paint a lot of trees and stuff. I really want to be an architect, but they do a lot of computer work, so I don’t like that fact. I would rather take the same aspect of the buildings and put it into my artwork. You can tell just by the lines that it’s architectural.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “{laughs} Probably to not lose focus of my goals. Because there’s a lot of times where… people would tell me… doing other things are more important than doing your artwork. Art is always important to me, so I always feel like never give up. Which I never lost it… I just sometimes lost focus.”

What is your biggest challenge? “Now my biggest challenge is challenging myself. Finding new things to challenge myself is a challenge because I feel like I’ve conquered a lot of things. I can pretty much draw anything, so it’s like I want something to challenge me always.”

“Right now, this (current painting of the Hearst Tower) is pretty challenging because of the dimensions especially this right here (the front steps) is kicking my ass… just this… just because it’s circular. You have to add the characteristics to make it look like it’s circular but also squared with the background. This right here is challenging.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “My goal would be not to lose focus and to go somewhere with it in a way. Or at least be able to do what I do comfortably everyday. That would be my goal. Not even being rich or like successful but just knowing that I’m comfortable where I’m at, so that way I can always do my artwork without having to worry about anything.”

What do you worry about now? “Nothing really. I don’t really worry much. That’s why I live my life how I do now. I just come out and paint and just hang out.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Spread love. That will be a big sign especially in Charlotte because I don’t like negativity. I feel like if you’re going to do anything, I would spread love, not negativity. Don’t be a hateful person. Be more of a loving person. That way everyone would get the message to love more and hate less.”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day with very flat light. I used a reflector to draw more light to Jessie’s face.

Stranger 64/100 – Brittany

100 Strangers - BrittanyOur next stranger certainly sticks out from the crowd.

Meet Brittany.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Be patient. Things aren’t always going to happen when you want them to happen. Things just gotta happen the way they want to.”

So you believe in fate I guess? “Something like that, yeah.”

What are your goals right now? “Right now I have three startup businesses going on. Doing as many things as I possibly can to get my name and myself out there and to market my brand. And, hopefully one day, get married. {laughs}”

What if you didn’t get married… would that be a big deal? “No. It’s as much for my mom as me. {laughs}”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “I’m very shy, believe it or not. Large groups make me very uncomfortable.”

Would you say you’re an introvert then? “Very much so.”

Me too… “Approaching people is not typically my… if it’s larger, I get scared. If it’s a couple people, I can probably get into that. Being a lot more open and being able to communicate with a large mass of people is probably my biggest challenge.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “Buy me a new car… a sensible car like a mini cooper is what I want. Buy me a few tiny homes… no set number there. And travel the world. I’d still keep my regular job.”

Do you have a life philosophy? “It changes. Every quarter I have a newfound epiphany. My biggest thing right now is not to worry. I’m a very worrisome person. Sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Make someone else smile today.”

“So, get out of your phone. Talk to a person today. Make somebody else smile. Do something for the betterment of someone else.”

Technical Notes: We were on a shady city block. I used a reflector to increase the light on Brittany’s face.

Stranger 63/100 – Victoria

100 Strangers - VictoriaI met our next stranger as she was out with her fiancé, stranger #62 Tyler.

Meet Victoria.

“I am a student, and we just moved up here a few months ago. We were walking around trying to get lunch.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Probably be more confident in myself. A lot of times I feel like I bring myself down for no reason.”

Has that always been the case? “Yeah, for a while… and then I moved to Charlotte and got out of a small town. I still struggle with confidence sometimes just being in engineering, the only female… you know?”

I’ve seen statistics where females just drop out at great rates… “Yeah, I feel like they’re not taken as seriously.”

Why do you think females drop out of STEM? “I just feel like there’s a little bit of fear just because it’s not a very woman-populated kind of job like science, math or anything like that. They’re just kind of like, oh, that’s not what I’m supposed to do. It’s just kind of like a mental thing. It’s like, that’s a men’s job.”

How were you able to fight that? “I’m very stubborn and, again, I’ve been working on my confidence. I want to do something that’s impactful. I don’t want to sit in an office and feel like what I’m doing is unimportant. I want to do something big.”

What are your goals? “I definitely want to be a civil engineer. I’m concentrating on energy design right now so… sustainability projects. I actually just had an interview… that’s why I’m dressed like this. So, anything with sustainability really… I’m pretty open to that.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Probably focusing on what’s important. I get really distracted easily… I want to go out to lunch, I want to hang out with my friends, but I really need to focus on schoolwork and do nothing else.”

What do you do in your free time? “We go hiking. We take our dogs out and walk around uptown a little bit.”

How would your friends describe you? “Probably as social. A little feisty. But genuinely a good person I would think… I hope so.”

Technical Notes: We found a nicely lit spot with a bright spot of sun reflecting off a faraway building. I used a reflector to further light up her face.

Stranger 62/100 – Tyler

100 Strangers - TylerI ran into our next stranger while he was out getting ready to have lunch with his fiancé.

Meet Tyler.

Tyler is originally from the Northeast and has lived in Charlotte for about two years.

What kind of work do you do? “I work in technology.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t rush. Take your time. Think things through. And don’t make decisions for anyone but yourself.”

Is that something you were always able to do? “Yeah, for the most part. It’s sort of a mantra.”

What is your biggest challenge? “Balancing the pursuit of success with happiness. That’s a really complicated one for a lot of people.”

Are they mutually exclusive? “Not necessarily. I think they’re very much related, and that’s where the balancing act comes into play.”

How would your friends describe you? “That depends which friend you ask… {laughs} but, mostly pretty outgoing, pretty easy going, definitely an oddball. Considerate and there when needed.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Respect yourself.”

And you don’t think people do that enough? “Not necessarily. Not in my experience.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “You’re assuming I don’t have a million dollars. {laughs}”

I am making an assumption, yes. It’s usually a pretty accurate one… {laughs} “If I had a million dollars, I would probably play with it, invest, maybe go on a vacation. Standard stuff, nothing drastic.”

Technical Notes: It was a sunny day, so we found a shaded area out of the direct sun. Tyler was lit from his left side by a bright reflection bouncing off a distant building. I used a reflector on his right side to even out the light.