Tag Archives: natural light

100 Strangers – Set 1

100-Strangers-Matrix.jpgHere they are… my 100 Strangers family in one image. It’s been an amazing journey.

Most all of my previous creative pursuits have involved me working alone in a room… usually in front of a computer. Learning to paint was a breath of fresh air, but still I was spending my time alone (just in a different room). After experimenting with painting many different subjects, I found myself drawn to painting portraits of people.

During this time I was puzzled as to why I was so attracted to playing Pokémon Go. Then I realized… it wasn’t actually the game itself but just getting outside and having an adventure. When I learned about the 100 Strangers Project, it immediately clicked in my mind that this was the adventure I needed to pursue instead.

It’s hard to put into words what this project has meant to me. It’s certainly made me a better photographer, but it was the human interaction that made it all worthwhile. I’m an introvert, so the prospect of approaching complete strangers on the street was a bit daunting. To my surprise, I discovered that it’s something I’m pretty good at.

I assumed that the vast majority of the strangers I approached would say no and that I’d have to push through tons of rejection to find a willing participant. To my surprise, I found the exact opposite. Of course there were people who declined (maybe less than 20), but they were almost always friendly.

One of the biggest benefits of this project is that it forces you to focus your attention on other people as opposed to yourself and your ego (which might be the source of much of our unhappiness). You cannot help but be challenged and be humbled by all of the people you meet. Some are well off, some are getting by and some are struggling in ways that I can’t even imagine. Generally speaking, we all want the same thing.

Looking at this image of 100 strangers makes me smile. I remember their names, where I met them, their personalities, their challenges and their dreams. Some have become friends. Some I keep up with on social media. For the vast majority, I have no contact with them at all. I hope they are all able to see their portraits (or will discover them sometime in the future), and I hope it makes them smile too.

Stranger 100/100 – Imani

100 Strangers - ImaniStranger 100/100 – Imani

“Give back to the community… go out and help other people.”

Meet Imani.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t drink so much… stay away from that. Really just focus more instead of going out so often, partying, and just be a little more determined. I’m a pretty determined person, hard worker, but just being consistent and not becoming complacent and stagnant… I would definitely give myself that advice.”

What are you focusing on now? “On my career. Honestly, my freshman year of school… I just came back…”

From where? “ECU… it was a party school. I removed myself from the party life, the situation, and I came back home. I started working for a consulting firm, and it’s been up from there.”

Tell me about your career… “So, I’m in school for criminal justice minoring in business marketing. I’m actually married, and my husband and I we’re opening up an enterprise together with four different companies umbrellaed underneath. I’m also getting into trading stocks. I’m doing a day-trading academy right now.”

It’s an interesting time to be trading since the markets have been up for so long… “It is, but it’s a perfect time to strengthen my strategies and the different markets that I’m trading in. Maybe in the futures market it’s not that great of a time to trade, but, if you’re doing day-trading, it’s different.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “My biggest challenge would definitely be the separation between my husband and I. So, it’s been a difficult time.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about you? “A lot of people don’t like to talk to me because they think that I’m stuck up at first… or that I’m just a partier. I have that connotation because I worked at clubs and bars for so long, but that’s definitely not me at all.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “It’s just a very selfish society that we live in nowadays, and I would definitely say to give back to the community and to go out and help other people.”

Technical Notes: We were in the shade of a building, and I used a small reflector to even the light on Imani’s face.

Stranger 99/100 – Kevin

Stranger-99-Kevin.jpgStranger 99/100 – Kevin

“I want to make a name for myself. I want people to know me.”

Meet Kevin.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Take school extremely seriously. High school, middle school… all of it.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Maintaining… keeping a steady pace.”

What’s keeping you from doing that? “Myself… not being disciplined.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “In ten years… I want to make a name for myself. I want people to know me. I want to make an impact… at least for my family.”

What’s the plan? “I do a little music right now… hip-hop, rap.”

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? “I don’t know… people just ask me if I’m ok… like I have a mean face all the time. I don’t really talk to a whole lot of people. I just keep to myself.“

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “Life goes on.”

Are you active in the music scene yet? “I’m just writing. I haven’t stepped into the studio just yet, but I’ve been writing a lot of stuff.”

What advice would you give to people starting out in music? “Never give up honestly. Nowadays you can really go viral… you just gotta keep going. Even when you feel like you’re not going so good… you’re not gaining fans… even if it takes years, just keep going. Even people who are big now, it took them years. You just gotta keep pursuing it and getting better and better and finding that new thing that people like.”

Technical Notes: It was a cloudy day, and I used a reflector below Kevin’s face to even out the light. Despite the processed look, I barely edited this portrait at all in Lightroom. This was the rare case where the subject, lighting and background all came together at the same time.

Stranger 98/100 – Quay

100 Strangers - QuayStranger 98/100 – Quay

“You gotta go make some moves as far as making a legacy for yourself before you leave the Earth.”

Meet Quay.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Whatever you plan on doing in the future as a passion or a career or job, whatever, just make sure you go hard… 110%.”

Have you always done that? “Lately I have… not always.”

What made you clue in to that? “Because reality sinks in, and you realize you can’t just sit around procrastinating. You gotta go make some moves as far as making a legacy for yourself before you leave the Earth… because you know you have to go at some point.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Trying to make it music-wise. I make music so… Trying to make it as an artist today with so many more emergent artists coming out everyday… it’s kinda hard.”

Tell me about your music…. “Basically, I just talk about my lifestyle. I don’t talk about killin’ people and none of that stuff that the majority of these people who make rap music or hip-hop music talk about nowadays. I talk about things that people can relate to.”

So authenticity is important? “Exactly.”

What are your goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “I just want to be living comfortably… as little worries as possible.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “It would say something about unity… not just one’s own race, but all races. If you look at society today whites they stick together with they own race, not to say that they don’t help others, but… that’s how it just go… races stick together. But, if it all comes together… I think the world will be a better place as far as unity goes.”

Technical Notes: I used a reflector to add light to Quay’s face. I did my best to reduce the glare in his glasses, but I couldn’t find an angle where there wasn’t a lot of glare.

Stranger 96/100 – Jay

100 Strangers - JayStranger 96/100 – Jay

“You’re the only person that can be responsible for your own happiness.”

Meet Jay.

What advice would you give to your younger self? “I would say that, at the end of the day, you’re the only person that can be responsible for your own happiness. Everybody goes through their respective struggles, but what makes the difference is how you choose to handle that… how you choose to get back up again. And the moment that you decide that you can’t get up again is where you’ve lost.”

Nice… did you practice for this? “No. {laughs}”

What is your biggest challenge right now”? “My biggest challenge is… finding a dream that’s worth working for. I moved out here for work… in this treadmill of work here… providing value for somebody else. And the things I want to do for myself, my dreams, have gotten lost by the wayside. The passion I used to have when I was younger is gone because of this work. So, now I’m trying to save. I’m trying to get some studio time… I do music. I’m trying to pursue that dream and put it at the forefront of my life rather than having it on the back burner.”

Where do you want to be in ten years? “I would want to be a semi-successful musician and model.”

What kind of music do you make? “I began my music career as a jazz musician. I play drums, guitar, bass and piano. In college I took to producing, mixing, mastering, rapping… I’ve always sang, but years of smoking have caught up to me, so I’m not as great a singer as I used to be or as I could have been. But I do still rap, so what I create is kind of an alternative hip-hop. I don’t really fit into any given genre because I don’t want to tell the same stories. I mean talking about money is cool, you know, if you have it, but I’d rather talk abut things that are real and that I’ve experienced.”

If you could put a billboard up in Charlotte, what would it say? “I’d probably put in really big letters ‘Think’. It’s not a lot to go off of, so any meaning that you draw from it is purely internal.”

Technical Notes: I had taken some photos using a reflector before we stepped into the doorway for the interview. During the interview, I noticed how amazing the light and shadow s looked on Jay’s face. I asked him if I could take another shot, and this is the result with no lights or modifiers.

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.