His name is Omar, I spotted him while I was leaving a coffee shop in downtown Tampa, Strolling down the walk I heard the acoustic music that I could only imagine was leaving the speaker of a nearby restaurant. Approaching him was unexpectedly easy, I admired his music for a moment then inquired as to whether I could take a photo. He said he was trying to learn a song for his father, one of his favorites so he could play it for him next time he sees him. I may not be right yet I got the feeling it may have been awhile scene he has seen his father, Looking back on it now I would have liked to ask him more about his dad and their relationship. I think this may be the reason the project is going so slowly for me. While the pictures worth a thousand words, I would prefer not to simply post a photo, I need to give you their story. That implies I need to get individuals to open up to me, I even have to find a way to put that into words and that's why harder than the picture. Photography comes a lot easier to me than writing. I trust along this journey I can develop in my written work as well as my photography.
When clients come to me its often times at their best, they have spent weeks trying to find just the right outfit – they’ve had their hair and make-up done - the whole 9! While I love photographing people at their best, I have had a strong urge to photograph people in a more raw, natural environment. When I heard about the ‘100 strangers’ photo project a few years ago, I became obsessed with the thought of doing my own project, but I never took it any further. Although this excited me so much, it un-nerved me – the thought of engaging total strangers and taking their pictures was a little too scarry.
I have always seen my self as outgoing and I believe most of my friends and family would also describe me as such. I am beginning to learn that I am not quite as outgoing as some would think, in fact I'm actually a bit of an introvert. To interact with complete strangers is one thing -to ask to photograph them is another. What if they refused? What if they think im a creep? Or a creep with a camera - that's even worse! My nerves have always got the better of me, even when I have seen a stranger and wanted to photograph them I would make up excuse after excuse - like “bad lighting” or “location”. I have never been able to build up enough courage to take the plunge!
Well - finally I did!!
My first photograph was not of a complete stranger. This man is always at my street corner, but we had never exchanged more then “how much is that watermelon” and a “Thank you”! I have mentioned to so many people how intriguing I find this man, and how much I would like to photograph him. You see? It sounds creepy doesn't it? I have so much honor for this incredible man who get’s up every day and stands on the side of the road after he has gathered watermelons or mango’s. He is a man of integrity. He is man of honor. He makes a decent living and always has a smile on his face. This man deserves to be “show cased”. This man reminds me of my Father. It is this that has given me the courage to take the plunge. My Father is one of my greatest hero’s!
This morning I was driving by early. The light was perfect, I had my camera, but I still drove right past. It took me a few miles to talk myself into it. I turned around. When I arrived I still did not have the courage to take out my camera. I acted just like a normal customer only interested in the watermelons, whilst my beating heart would hardly allow me to breathe, never mind speak. I eventually tried to start up a conversation - but just as luck would have it he did not speak English. When I asked him if I could take his photo he quickly said "Oh no no no" I then tried explaining myself using my best sign language to make sure he understood me. Then I got a "Oh maybe" I didn't wait a second longer – I got my camera and took a photo after I got the “okay”.
What a “rush” it was and im still filled with excitement over my first ever street portrait. My goal now is to interact with 99 more strangers I would otherwise never interact with…and take their photograph. My hope is that people will be open enough to share with me something about themselves. We don’t realize how amazing and unique we are. It’s as if we hide our broken parts and our shame so well, and so often there’s no reason to hide anything at all. We should be celebrating our beautiful lives. I am so excited at the opportunity to celebrate 99 more unique gifts of life and show case their beauty, all while I address my own shame – my own lack of confidence. Learning how to celebrate me in the process!
I am so grateful for this group, a group that interacts like a family.... like sisters. There are so many wonderful women in this group who I look up to, many who have helped me grow in my photography.
This month we got together at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa for coffee and chitchat, Then headed across the street to the collage for some shooting practice. On this day we just got out there and photographed each other, and we had a blast doing so.
“We will meet; and there we may rehearse most