Stranger 93/100 – Derrick

100 Strangers - DerrickStranger 93/100 – Derrick

“Check your spiritual capital…”

Meet Derrick.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “You should read The Bible so you’ll know who the father is in heaven, and you’ll know how things began. So, if you ever run into a situation like me of being shelter-less… because we’re really not homeless because you’re homeless in heaven. So sometimes god is sending you in the streets like boot camp.”

“So the advice is keep the faith, have ethics, try to be as honest as you can, work hard and don’t let nobody discourage you.”

What’s the biggest misconception people have about shelter-less people? “They think they’re all trifling and don’t want to work, and it’s not true.”

“Some people have been homeless in cars. Some people have been homeless in the sticks… the sticks is when you’re sleeping outside on a bench… and in the woods.“

“You actually give a shit because you’re trying to talk to people. You’re not trying to take advantage… you’re trying to understand what’s making their clock tick, what’s happening, what’s the truth.”

“I’ve found the churches spend 98% on administration costs and half a percent on actually helping the people.”

“Now the church is given $10,000 every time they pick a busload up, every two weeks, each church. But it still leaves some people out in the cold because the men’s shelter is a biohazard, and it just closed a month ago. They have no shelter because Urban Ministry is closed, but yet they’re government funded. Now, they have money for housing that they could give to the people that are homeless, but they chose to give it to the church who let them stay one or two nights. Instead of giving it to them, they give it to the church to keep them homeless, so the people who work there can pay for their cars and their houses. In other words, it’s a business… if we get them off the street then, hell, we don’t have a job. So, it shouldn’t be like that.”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day, so I used my small LED panel to light up Derrick’s face (and give him a nice catch light in the eyes).

Blanket Fort Documentary

I’ve just completed my first mini-documentary!  It spotlights Charlotte-musician Brett Green and his music project called Blanket Fort.

Watch the documentary by following the link below and read on about how it was made.


This project was a natural progression from my 100 Strangers Project as I only met Brett on the day we started shooting this.

It all started one morning when I stumbled across Blanket Fort’s Bandcamp page. I really liked the music, so I friended Brett on Facebook that afternoon. By that evening, I was at The Milestone filming a documentary about him.

I met up with Brett on May 7th, 2018 at The Milestone.  I followed him around a bit to get some b-roll footage.  Later, we setup outside the backdoor for a short interview.  I was a little worried that the AC unit nearby was going to mess up the sound, so I moved us another spot.  Unfortunately, there was an incredibly loud cricket right there.  Later on in the evening, I filmed Blanket Fort’s 4-song set.


Brett and I after the show at The Milestone.

A few days later, I visited Brett at his home and did a full 40-minute interview.  I also got some footage of his bedroom where he spends a lot of time writing and recording his songs.  We got a lot done in the short 2 hours I was there.

The next step was editing all the footage together and mixing it in with various Blanket Fort songs.  I couldn’t be more happy with my first attempt at a short film.  I learned so much from this project and hope to do more in the future.

I can’t thank Brett enough for agreeing to do this project with me. As you’ll see in the film, he was very open and authentic throughout which is especially notable given that we were complete strangers on the day I started filming.


Stranger 92/100 – Amala

Stranger-92-Amala.jpgStranger 92/100 – Amala

“Relationships are the reason why we exist.”

Meet Amala.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Just live and enjoy the moment. Everything will be fine. Just live! {Laughs} You don’t have to get married before you’re thirty. You don’t have to have kids. You don’t have to ride the styles. You don’t have to have this job. You can be happy without any of that.”

How did that become clear to you? “I read a lot, so reading and getting to hear other people’s perspective. I follow a lot of world news. I’m in finance, so for me it’s always interesting how people equate money to happiness, and that’s never going to stop because that’s what you’re bombarded with in your day-to-day lives. I’m like you… I love talking to strangers and getting their perspective. Expose your mindset to different ways of thinking. That’s the most important thing.”

So you’re a believer in the idea that we’re not set in stone from birth but that we can learn and change? “Absolutely. The things you find hardest in life are the things you don’t want to change. So, if you really want something, you can develop your mindset and you can cultivate to the person you want to be. It’s not impossible.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Making sure that my family is happy… taken care of. Relationships are the reason why we exist. Loneliness can cause sickness, so when you break that connection you have with other people, it will come back to haunt you. So, my goal is just to make sure that my family maintains our closeness.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Laugh… smile. I want it to be a big naked person who is just laughing so hard that it looks like they’re on top of the world. Even though society doesn’t agree with that image, you see this person is truly happy in their form.”

Technical Notes: We were under a covered walkway, so I used my small LED panel to add more light to Amala’s face.

Stranger 91/100 – Ambika

Stranger-91-Ambika.jpgStranger 91/100 – Ambika

“I’m not a pushover. I feel like I can stand my ground. I can be strong.”

Meet Ambika.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about you? “I smile a lot. I can’t help it. I see new people… I don’t know what to say… I just smile. So I come off like, I wouldn’t say naive, but just too sweet maybe? I’m not a pushover. I feel like I can stand my ground. I can be strong. I like to come off sweet, but, hey, don’t take me for granted. I have a mean side too. {laughs} It’s not something I advertise, but I feel like people don’t see that when they see me.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Take more time off from your usual work and learn to have a little more fun.”

What form has that taken? “For me it’s just new experiences, going to new places, meeting more people, just doing anything… take a new dance class, learn something new.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “I had a baby six months ago. I have a three year old, and now I have a six month old which is great. I love it. I’ve wanted kids for a long time, but just trying to figure out what to do with this new arrangement.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “I just want to be healthier, more active for my kids, spend more time with my family… I have a lot of family back in India. I don’t travel as much because it’s really far away.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “I guess something about animals. I have a big soft spot for my little dogs and cats… adoption, fostering… something that would promote that. Save the animals.”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day, so I used my small LED panel to light up Ambika’s face. However, I might have added a bit too much light in this particular instance.

Stranger 90/100 – Lindsey

100 Strangers - LindseyStranger 90/100 – Lindsey

“Don’t be fearful…”

Meet Lindsey.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “I’d probably say just don’t be fearful. Fear doesn’t really solve anything… it just prevents a lot. As a kid I feel like I was really fearful, and I feel like, now that I’ve grown up, I feel like there wasn’t much to be fearful about.”

Did something change? “I guess it was an epiphany.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “I guess just thinking outside the box. Like it’s really easy to get caught up in living life, doing the 9 to 5, working, getting money, paying bills… like getting caught up in that. Being more creative, getting outside of what I usually do, experiences…”

What is your creative outlet? “I make music.”

Now you’ve got my interest… what kind of music do you make? “I would say it’s alternative R&B.”

Are you active in the local music scene? “I’m not. Not yet. Getting there… but not yet.”

What are your goals? “I guess right now just like gaining experience. I don’t really have any goals other than working. Just gaining experience so I can have that wisdom so I can speak it in my music.”

What’s the biggest misconception about you? “I feel like a lot of people think I’m really chill… kind of like very laid back, easy-going, but I’m very like a child… I’m very childish. {laughs}”

Technical Notes: It was an overcast day, so I decided to bring my LED panel instead of a reflector. We were under an overhang, and I used the LED panel to light up the right side of Lindsey’s face.

Stranger 89/100 – David

Stranger-89-David.jpgStranger 89/100 – David

“Hanging out… celebrating that I’m done with finals.”

Meet David.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Get involved more with community activities or groups… building connections.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Figuring out what I want to do with my life after I graduate.”

Got any ideas? “Stay in school until I figure it out… just keep going. I’m in Political Science right now. If I can actually find some internships or anything that will be helpful, but, if not, then I’m probably going to start studying Psychology.”

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

How would your friends describe you? “Sarcastic probably.”

What would you do with a million dollars? “I’d probably travel… see the world. Meet new people.”

Any particular place? “Everywhere. I kind of want to see China because it has everything… it’s so vast.”

What music are you listening to? “Everything right now. Hip-hop, metal, rock, classic rock, even some classical music.”

A well balanced diet… “Oh, yeah. I love music… just all around. Not country… I’m not very into country.”

Technical Notes: It was a bright sunny day. I used a reflector to add light to even out David’s face, but I think I added too much light creating a flatter look than I wanted.

Stranger 88/100 – Kenneth

100 Strangers - KennethStranger 88/100 – Kenneth

“I’m pretty much on a no-plan plan…”

Meet Kenneth.

You’re a photographer… tell me about that… “I’m constantly shooting. I just mostly shoot 35mm. I shoot film mostly, but I also shoot some medium format film. I’m taking photos of people more than anything else, but also some people’s relationship to their environment. If I don’t have a rangefinder on me, I have like a pocket camera of some sort, but I kind of always have a camera on me whether it’s just a phone as well. It’s funny, you carry a camera around so much then, when you’re not carrying one, so many things happen.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “It makes me think of a question someone else just asked me… would your younger self be proud of who you are now? And I would say yes. But let me answer your question… Yeah, I guess just more so listening to other people’s advice instead of being stubborn. I guess there is a point of wanting to do things your own way, but I think older people have been trying to help you your whole life, so maybe more listening to advice that people have to offer.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Making money I guess. I’m getting older and, yeah, it’s just reality… being stable I guess financially.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “I don’t really think that far ahead. I’m pretty much on a no-plan plan… I kind of just go with what comes. Yeah, I’m pretty open for whatever opportunities arise.”

If you could out a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “It sounds so corny, but let go a little or just like live a little. I feel like it’s a pretty conservative place. Just let go a little and have more fun.”

Technical Notes: The sun was very bright, so we stayed under the covered walkway where I first approached Kenneth. I used a reflector to even out the light on the right side of his face.