100 Strangers - Mark Reierson

100 Strangers

In early 2014 I began this street portrait project, It has led me on a fantastic journey of street portraiture. Through the course of the months that I pursued this project I met many interesting people and experienced the kindness and generosity of strangers.

For the full story check out my book here.

  • 001.100 Clint

    Even though I had owned a camera for a few years, it wasn’t until I decided to go ahead with this project that I carried it out in public places in my home town. The contact cards I made had arrived and one more excuse was removed. Now it was just me, the camera and my fear. Off and on for a few weeks, I had seen a busker playing and singing in a Plus 15 walkway. After passing him a few times I decided that the next time I saw him I would ask him to be my first Stranger. It took a couple of days before I saw him again and the time wore on my nerves until the shadow of doubt crept dangerously near. Finally one day as I approached the walkway I heard him singing. Normally I enjoy the buskers brightening the dull halls, especially on the long dreary winter days, but today my stomach filled with bile and my throat tightened. I entered the passageway and stopped, listening for a while. After a few moments, he greeted me and asked if I had any questions about the material in his guitar case. The ice was broken. We began to chat; I introduced myself and asked if he would pose for me. Despite my trepidation, this first experience was very positive and it sparked the beginning of an undiscovered joy. This is Clint. The material in his guitar case was promotional brochures for a live gig he was booked to play at a local tavern. I have run into Clint quite a few times since that first day and now whenever we see each other we stop to say hello.

  • 003.100 Jessica

    Two things happened on this day that were well outside normal for me. First, I took a chance and messaged a photographer named Jeff whom I had discovered on the internet. I asked if he wanted to meet and do a photowalk, and he agreed. We arranged to meet on the 8th Avenue pedestrian mall. After we shook hands, I joked that I had never been on a blind internet date before, and we both laughed. We then began walking toward the plaza at the end of the mall, chatting about photography and getting to know each other. It was Jeff who first spotted my third Stranger sitting in the distance. The sun was illuminating her straw blonde hair and he took some candid photos of her with his zoom lens. I turned to Jeff and said now that he had the candid shot, I would go for the posed photo. And so the second non-normal thing happened: I approached a lone woman in a park and asked if I could make a portrait of her. This is Jessica. When I asked for a portrait, she was very willing to pose, so I moved her into position while we talked. It was quickly apparent that Jessica has experience around a camera. In a past life, she told me, she studied photography but in the process lost the joy of it and now doesn’t even own a camera. In a small way, I hope that our little encounter helped rekindle an interest within her.

  • 005.100 Ben

    This was actually the second time that I saw the man in this photo. The first time, I was not able to stop, so I was very happy when I noticed him walking toward me the second time. Without hesitation, I approached and talked to him. What struck me first about him was his fantastic hair and white headphones. I also think he reminded me of Hugo, from the TV series “LOST.” When I explained my project to him, I remember he distinctly replied, “Sure man, what do you want me to do?” This is Ben. I made quite a few photos of Ben. I tried different lighting and background scenarios and, in the end, settled on this look as it represented what first drew my attention to him. He was interested in getting a copy of the photo right away and when I gave him my email address, he sent me his within 20 minutes of our meeting. I sent him his photo later that evening. Ben works as a glazier, is into hip hop music and even has his own hip hop group that jams together. Through a series of emails, Ben expressed interest in having me photograph the rest of his group but, unfortunately, it has not yet worked out. February 26, 2015 I received a note on social media that informed me that Ben had passed away the previous week. I have been surprised at the level of emotional reaction I had at this news. Though I only briefly met any of these strangers I have a deep emotional connection to them. I was deeply saddened to hear this news. Benjamin Amor 1987-2015

  • 007.100 Shaun

    Scott and I left the skating rink, casually strolling back up the mall. We had only gone about half the block when I saw my next Stranger standing with a group of women. Still feeling energized by my encounter with Kenny, I pushed aside my normal reserve and asked the only male in the group if I could take his photo. He looked around his group, who offered nonverbal encouragement, then shrugged and agreed. When I explained my project to him, he was intrigued and happy to participate. This is Shaun. He was downtown attending a conference and was on a break when I ran into him, which is why he was outside enjoying the sun with his coworkers. Shaun is a cook at a local golf club, and has been for a few years. I laughed and told him my company held our annual golf tournament at the course he worked at for at least the last ten years — another funny coincidence on the same day.

  • 009.100 Joelle

    This portrait was another second-chance opportunity. I had seen this woman a few days prior but was not able to speak to her before she vanished, seemingly into thin air in the middle of a city block. I had turned away for a moment, and when I turned back, she was gone. When I saw her the second time, I approached without hesitation. This is Joelle. When I explained my intentions, she had actually heard of the “100 Strangers Project” through her art school friends. That was a first for me! She was flattered that I approached her but had a hard time relaxing for the camera. The photo above is one that captured her blue eyes and hesitant smile the best. Off camera, Joelle was very engaging and quick to smile. She works at a real estate broker’s office near where I saw her the first time, which explained her exceptional Houdini act.

  • 011.100 Katie

    Earlier that day, the light had been more favourable with the sun less diffused through the high clouds. But when I saw this woman walking toward me, her hood up against the cold, a thick blanket of light-obstructing cloud had moved overhead, flattening the light. Her quick but careful steps and her determined pace set her out from the other pedestrians. I greeted her, explaining my project, and after a slight hesitation, she agreed. This is Katie. She works in the health care industry in the health records department. I showed her a few of the frames on the back of my camera and she seemed satisfied. Not wanting to delay her any longer in the cold, we parted.

  • 013.100 Chris

    This is Chris, the other half of Rio’s(012) interview crew. Chris was acting as the cameraman and sound tech for Rio while they were conducting their Treaty 7 research. Given the cold day, Chris took advantage of his headphones to keep his ears warm. I photographed Chris in the same location as Rio, but decided to convert his photo into black and white to add some variety.

  • 015.100 Lindsay

    Despite winter’s clingy behaviour, I refused to be deterred by the weather and pressed on. The project so far had been rewarding, and I had met some really kind, fascinating people. This day I was loitering around my usual block looking and waiting for…I don’t know what I wait for; a look, hope, a vibe? I then noticed a woman walking by and I introduced myself before my nerves got to me. This is Lindsay. She was surprised that I asked her for her portrait, saying, “Oh, I’m not photogenic.” In an effort to prove I wasn’t making wild claims, I showed her the photo of Andie (005), who had also said she was un-photogenic. Lindsay was satisfied that I was not totally crazy, and I was glad that she consented, as she has such a lovely smile and very cool eyes. She works as a hair stylist, and said she likes to do women’s colours and men’s cuts. I chuckled and said I would go to see her but my kids have worked very hard to reduce my need for a hair cut, and we both had a good laugh.

  • 017.100 Amanda

    Scott was with me today, but not many people were out and about, despite it being the warmest day in a week. After a while we headed indoors to warm up and to try our luck in a busy shopping mall. It felt a bit weird being in the mall with my gear but I had my wingman, so I wasn’t too self-conscious. After about 20 minutes or so of wandering, we were about to head back outside when I spotted my Stranger. This is Amanda. She was enjoying her lunch break with a friend when I interrupted and asked for her photo. She was a bit hesitant at first but her friend encouraged her. Amanda was already in front of this white wall so we did not have to move for this high-key photo. She was a little nervous at first, but relaxed enough to give me this great hint of a smile. Regrettably, I did not find out much about Amanda or her friend, as they were about to head back to work so I thanked her and away she went.

  • 019.100 Nikki

    This is Nikki, Claire’s (018) companion. Though it was Claire’s vibrant colouring that I saw from afar, when I began talking to these ladies, I noticed Nikki’s eyes and asked for her portrait as well. Originally from England, Nikki has been in Calgary for about a year, like Claire, and they work at the same financial firm. Nikki was not as thrilled to be photographed in “just [her] ski jacket”, but the warmth was definitely needed today, and I think the bright turquoise helped brighten the grey weather.

  • 021.100 Kyle

    It truly is amazing how much the sunshine can lift the collective spirits of the city, and pedestrian traffic today was significantly greater than at any point during the previous two months. I took my camera and walked, grateful to be outside soaking up the heat under clear blue skies. A few days before, I had not reacted quickly enough when I passed a man in a bow-tie. Slightly annoyed at myself, I decided not to let an opportunity like that pass me by again. Well, today I had the chance to act on that. I saw two gentlemen sitting on a bench enjoying their coffee and the warm weather, so I introduced myself and my purpose. This is Kyle. I told him that his bow-tie caught my attention and I liked how he was dressed. He immediately agreed to be photographed and asked what I wanted him to do. We moved into the shade and out of the beautiful warm direct sun. I asked Kyle what he does for work and he surprised me by saying he works in the sales group of an IT recruitment firm; I commented that he was dressed atypical of most folks that I know who work in IT. He agreed with a chuckle.

  • 023.100 Shane

    It was another beautiful day, so I wandered slowly away from my office after work, my camera at the ready. My eyes scanned the area, taking in the light, the lines, the people, and then settled on a gentlemen with a white shirt, bright tie and black fedora. With little hesitation, I approached him and made my request. He agreed, but said he had to find his friends, as they had come downtown and were parked at a meter. He first needed to pop into a store and see if his friends were there. I got my gear ready, preset the exposure and waited. A minute later he emerged, obviously distracted and still looking for his friends, but he honoured his commitment and came over to me. I tried to be quick so I wouldn’t keep him from his friends for too long. This is Shane. He works at the airport, and when I complimented him on his attire and he told me that he and his friends liked to dress a little different. I think he looks sharp. Not wanting to delay him further, I gave him my card and we parted ways. A moment later, two more well dressed men with these fantastic beards came walking down the street. I thought about asking for a photograph but they seemed in a hurry and I did not want to be rushed into another photo before digesting the encounter with Shane. Not five minutes after this, I saw Shane walking down the street with the two bearded fellows! I had almost photographed the whole entourage without knowing the connections.

  • 025.100 Steph

    The warming trend had turned cool and thick clouds again covered the city, but people were still out in force. I wandered for nearly an hour, trying to decide on whom to approach. Interestingly, this time it was less the fear of rejection that held me back but more an abundance of choices: should I approach the older man with the fantastic beard, the pretty girl with long curly hair, the man in the hat, the woman with the scarf, the man with the chiseled jaw? The opportunities were plentiful but still I hesitated. As I stood indecisively, it began to rain lightly, and the busy streets cleared quickly. I lingered under the shelter of a building for a few more minutes, not wanting to quit empty handed. I waited stubbornly, annoyed with myself for not picking someone earlier. Then I saw this woman walking toward me, funnelled into shelter by the rain. As she passed I introduced myself. Smiling graciously, she stopped and was very willing to participate when I made my request. This is Steph. She works as a flight attendant for WestJet, however when she was in school, she majored in photography and now is married to a professional photographer in the city. I quickly felt a fair bit of pressure to produce a decent photo! While preparing for the shoot, we had an enjoyable, though short, conversation, and in those few minutes she showed me immense kindness and offered support and encouragement for my project.

  • 026.100 Alexandra

    The bright sunshine couldn’t warm the icy north wind, and I shivered as I headed out to do a photowalk with a group of guys. We were in the middle of suburbia, so I thought it unlikely I’d meet anyone for my project, but a lone pedestrian, scarf billowing in the breeze and sunglasses reflecting the bright blue sky, caught my eye. I hesitated, unsure if I should deviate from my photowalk buddies, and she passed me by. She stopped further down the block, however, apparently waiting for someone, so I decided to approach her about my project. This is Alexandra. Just as I was getting ready to photograph her, her boyfriend (whom she’d been waiting for) came up, and I again explained myself. Alexandra is interested in photography, which was one of the reasons she agreed to my request so quickly, and is taking some general business classes while working part time. I wanted to get her sunglasses in the shot, as that was one of the things that attracted my attention, but given the design and high reflectivity, it was difficult.

  • 029.100 Amy

    I had been sick the previous week, and seemed to have lost my mojo in a few short days. I was turned down three times in row — a record — and while the rejections didn’t bother me intellectually, they did sap my energy. I was finally getting over my cold, and the warm weather further lifted my spirits as I wandered around downtown, enjoying simply being outside. About a block ahead of me, I spotted a woman with a coordinated wardrobe and a playful bow in her hair, and I hurried to catch up to her. This is Amy. She asked what I wanted her to do and seemed to relax into a pose quite quickly. She said she’d never modelled before, but was very comfortable in front of the camera, which definitely made my job easier! Amy is a real estate lawyer working for the city and was out enjoying the day. In hindsight, Amy seemed like she would have been willing to stay and chat longer, but my week off seemed to have rusted my social skills. My loss, though I’m glad I had the opportunity to capture her gentle smile and playful sense of style.

  • 031.100 Golara

    This is Golara, Iysha’s (030) friend. Golara had a hard time taming her infectious smile, and each time she tried she would burst into laughter. I really like this photo for her barely-concealed grin, eyes bright with laughter, and the wisp of hair near her eye. These two women shattered my rejection streak with laughter and enthusiasm. Iysha and Golara were so gregarious, and the entire photoshoot filled with such giddy energy that I had an absolute blast. These ladies brightened my day dramatically, and I’m incredibly grateful for our few shared moments.

  • 033.100 Steve

    On my way back to the office, I passed a gentlemen sitting on a concrete globe sculpture watching people go by. We made eye contact and for some reason I was compelled to stop, and before I knew it we were chatting away. He commented he was happy to chat as he finds the city to be “cold” — people unwilling just to talk to each other. Eventually, he noticed my camera and inquired about it, so I told him about my project. This is Steve. He was a real pleasure to talk to, as our conversation flowed so easily. We actually had a few extra minutes to chat, as it turns out we work in the same office building. Just before we reached our building I decided to ask Steve if he would pose for my project, even though I had not originally intended to photograph him. I’m glad I did, because I was able to capture how his friendliness shines through his eyes. I have since run into Steve several times and we often stop and say hello. On one of these occasions a few months after we first met, he told me he was planning to take a two month trip to South America and travel around the western side of the continent. I saw him after he had returned, and he confirmed that it was a fantastic trip.

  • 035.100 Rahi

    It was another lovely spring day, so I wandered along the 8th Avenue mall during my lunch break. A man with striking dark hair, glasses, and suit caught my attention as he stood in line at a popular lunch spot. I went over and introduced myself, and his colleagues kindly held his place in line as I photographed him. This is Rahi. He lives in Regina and is in Calgary for a conference — he and his team are actually presenting today. Not wanting to take up too much of his time and make him miss his lunch, I kept our encounter brief.

  • 037.100 Jessica

    I saw this young woman as we stood at a corner waiting for the light to change. She was very open to the project, but the light was poor, so we talked as we went in search of a better location. This is Jessica. She’s naturally outgoing and a great conversationalist, so I really enjoyed getting to know her a little. She is on the hunt for a summer job, a requirement to finish her program at the local technical college. She quickly added, however, that she doesn’t really want to pursue that avenue of employment any more, and has actually enrolled at the local university to study Sociology, as she wants to be a social worker. I’m very glad Jessica was so willing to chat: meeting people like her are highlights of this project.

  • 039.100 Jeanene

    After Jason (038) went on his way, my eye was caught by a woman standing in the sunshine across the street. She did not seem in a hurry nor even fully decided on her course of action so I took the opportunity to introduce myself. I think she found my request a bit odd at first, but the more I explained about my project, the keener she became, as she’s a big fan of the Humans of New York project, and my “100 Strangers Project” is in a similar vein. This is Jeanene. She works for an accounting firm in town and is pursuing her professional designation in the field. I took a number of frames, then thanked her and went on my way. When I got the images onto my computer, however, I realized that I had made a significant mistake. I wanted to start including my subject’s shoulders in shots. After I shot a few frames, I began to back up to widen the angle, but my camera was configured to back-button focus. This allows for greater freedom to composing, metering, etc., but is a double edged sword if you forget to refocus, because your shutter button does not save you. I ended up with just one frame of Jeanene that was in focus, but it does capture her quietly beautiful smile. I ran into Jeanene shortly after this encounter and I related my story of missing focus with her and apologized. She was sympathetic and we had good laugh about it, but she politely declined another shoot.

  • 041.100 Amandela

    With the consistently nicer weather the street vendors began to reappear along 8th Avenue Mall. One vendor that set up close to my building sold kettle cooked popcorn, filling the surrounding air with its delicious scent. When I passed by this time, I noticed they had a new employee, and I approached and began talking with her and her boss. I learned that the business is a family owned operation and they have several popcorn making units around the city and that they have been in business for many years and are often at farmers markets in the area. The kettle they pop the corn in is this huge copper pot: it must be nearly a meter across. Since she was working, I asked both her and her boss’s permission to photograph her. This is Amandela. When she first spoke her name, I asked her to write it down for me but she told me it is just like Nelson Mandela , but with an “A” at the beginning, and that she is named in his honour.

  • 043.100 Kristen

    I had been wanting to use some fill flash in my portraits to counter the overly flat light experienced on heavily overcast days. This day was one of variable cloud cover, so it was a bit challenging. I never knew from one minute to the next what the light would be like. This is (the very patient!) Kristen. As an icebreaker, I told her about my previous encounter with Nate (042) and his upcoming adventure. Kristen told me excitedly that she had done a similar trip for about the same time period, and our conversation flowed easily afterwards. Kristin works in the HR department of a local energy services firm, and even in our brief encounter I found her so personable and open that I’m sure she excels at her job. Despite my eagerness to use a flash, the light just wasn’t conducive to it, and there were many failed attempts through which Kristen showed remarkable patience. In the end, though, I got a great shot without flash, and had a wonderfully refreshing and invigorating conversation.

  • 045.100 Erik

    This is Erik. I watched him for a while as I was photographing the BMXers at the skate park. Since there weren’t a lot of people with skateboards at the park on this day, he stood out. Aside from his skills on a board, something else stood out with Erik, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. When I approached him to ask if I could photograph him while he did his thing, I mentioned that he looked a bit out of place here at the park (of course not nearly as out of place as I was). He laughed and said that he’s an engineer and works close by, and that he enjoys getting out of his office on nice days to come here and relax before “putting his engineer costume back on.” I had a good laugh at that. I photographed him for a while as he moved around the park and then made this portrait. Erik contacted me for his photo a short time later and we ended up scheduling another photoshoot. He wants to have something to show his kids and grandkids to prove he used to be cool, so we spent an entire lunch hour shooting in the park. It was a great experience; I got to try a variety of different techniques, including flash, and Erik got some photos for posterity.

  • 047.100 Jenn

    It had been a discouraging day. I had wandered for nearly an hour and a half and all I had were four rejections, and I was trying to figure out where I was going wrong. Was my attitude off, was my breath bad, was I too demanding? About to give up, I noticed a bright red jacket in the shade of my favourite colonnade. This is Jenn. I approached her as she was waiting for her bus and gave her a bit of my spiel. She was receptive to the idea but hesitant to be photographed because it was the end of the day and she felt like she didn’t look her best. I understood and didn’t push, but we continued to talk. Jenn’s smile is so bright and personable that I ended up telling her about my string of rejections. I guess she took pity on me because she loosened her hair, shook it out, and agreed to pose for me. The conversation with Jenn really lifted my spirits, and being allowed to make a portrait of her was icing on the cake. This was another example of a surprise moment that totally changed my day and why this project has become so addicting.

  • 002.100 Isaac

    The first Stranger was a big step and the second seemed equally as huge. This time, I was on transit making my way home when I noticed a sharply dressed guy in a grey woolen coat and a black fedora enter the train. Nervously, I hesitated, building up the courage to talk with him. Finally, I commented on his hat, he responded happily and we both lamented hats were not in common fashion anymore. At this point I asked him if he would like to participate in my project, to which he agreed. Fortunately for me, he was heading to the same destination so we had a few minutes to talk and I had the opportunity to get to know him a little bit. This is Isaac. His hobby is writing fiction, he was working on a three part project, which he described as a convoluted "post-modern" story. It sounded very interesting and I regret not digging deeper into his story. He related that he had written large parts of the story but then scrapped it and started again. Writing was his passion and he wrote for the shear pleasure of it. He had no plans to publish and, in fact, considered himself an "idealistic romantic" regarding the craft and felt that publishing would diminish his art. Another positive encounter and one that began to open my eyes to the fact that people can be quite open about their lives when given a chance. Thank you Isaac ***Constructive Critiques Welcome*** I am here to learn... The light was very flat that afternoon, I took some shots of him and we were walking away I noticed a bit better light at a different angle and was able to make the above portrait. ISO 100 | 50mm | f4.5 | 1/160sec EDIT: Converted to B&W in Silver Efex Pro2 Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page.

  • 004.100 Scott

    This was the day that I would feel the first sting of rejection. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic; I know they are not rejecting me personally, but as an introvert, that “no” sapped a lot from me. Pursuing this type of project takes a huge amount of energy. I have to muster myself to step forward and speak, even when I would rather slip back into the shadows. Feeling slightly dejected from being spurned by a woman in a red coat, I trudged back toward my office trying to shed the negative feelings. A couple of blocks later, when I lifted my slumped head, I noticed a man walking towards me with a tripod over his shoulder and a second camera slung around his neck. Shoving the nerves aside and seeing a very obvious talking point, I stepped into his path and introduced myself. This is Scott. He eagerly showed me his camera gear — he was toting a Canon Rebel and a legendary Hasselblad. I told him about my project and he heartily agreed to let me shoot a portrait of him. After I made my photo, he asked me to email it to him. He told me that most of the time he is on the other side of the lens and does not have many images of himself. This random meeting with a fellow photography enthusiast sparked the beginning of a good friendship. I have been meeting up with Scott multiple times a month since, and he has become my street shooting partner and photography mentor. I’ve come to see Scott’s openness and willingness to share his knowledge as one of his trademark characteristics, and I’m extremely grateful for all the good times we’ve shared.

  • 006.100 Kenny

    The deep freeze had finally broken in Calgary, and the spring sun was warming the air and lifting the mood of the city. Wanting to take advantage of the sunshine and warmer weather, I teamed up with Scott(004) to see who we could meet, and what — or who — we could photograph. We made our way to the still-frozen rink in Olympic Plaza, and enjoyed the sunshine while watching the skaters. One man caught my eye and when he sat down for a rest I took the opportunity to go and talk with him. He quickly consented when I asked for a photograph, and was curious about the project and my motivations for it. This is Kenny. He heartily agreed with me that people just don’t talk much anymore, though he was definitely willing to buck the trend! Kenny’s demeanour was so friendly and open, he was a real pleasure to talk to and we chatted for quite some time. Kenny obviously talked to strangers with much more ease than I did, and I learned that he and his girlfriend Courtney are from Houston, Texas. As I was leaving, I handed him my contact card. He looked at my last name, then pulled out his wallet and showed me his last name. My name is uniquely spelled and it is rare that anyone pronounces it correctly; Kenny’s last name is nearly an exact match. He even pronounced it the same, with the addition of a consonant blend at the beginning — a strange coincidence.

  • 008.100 Andie

    I was drawn to this woman’s bright scarf and intense gaze; when I first saw her she was standing next to a bank looking intently down the street. I hesitated for a moment before I approached, unsure of what her reaction would be. All my worry was for naught, because as I came up and greeted her, she smiled broadly and was very friendly. This is Andie. When I explained what I was doing and asked if I could make a portrait of her, she vehemently insisted that she was not photogenic. I asked about her previous photo experiences and she admitted that they were mostly candid photos, she had not done any formal portraiture before. It took me the better part of five minutes to convince her that she is indeed photogenic and she finally relented and agreed to pose. After making a few frames, I showed her the back of my screen on one of the better photos and she gasped a little and admitted that her photo was much better than she thought possible. A few weeks later, she emailed me asking for a copy of the photo. A few months after that, I ran into Andie again: still friendly and cheerful, she thanked me for her photo, though continued to be slightly bashful about being photogenic.

  • 010.100 Mandy

    After meeting and photographing Joelle (009), I was heading back towards my office when this woman walked toward me, her heart-shaped sunglasses catching my eye. Her buoyant attitude quickly became evident and a gravitational force seemed to draw me in. This is Mandy. I explained my project to her and she immediately began to ask what she could do, how she could pose, and where she should go! I was caught a bit off guard by her enthusiasm and sadly had no inspirational ideas for her. I moved her into some “shade” (I say shade but the day had a thick overcast that severely flattened the light.) In this case, I tried to use the “shade” to help create shadows as opposed to reducing them. Mandy was all smiles for me as she posed and while we chatted. She moved to Calgary from a neighbouring province and is living and working in the downtown area with a friend. She said she enjoys living in the city because you never know what will happen. “You might get approached by a random stranger to be photographed!” she exclaimed. Meeting Mandy was great; her upbeat attitude was fabulous and I only regret that I was not able to leverage her enthusiasm into even better photos.

  • 012.100 Rio

    Shortly after I photographed Katie (011), a woman in a bright red coat and a man carrying a video camera caught my attention: they were playfully interviewing a couple of statues. Genuinely intrigued about what they were up to, I caught up to them to ask. They work for a theatre production company and were doing some background research for an upcoming production on Treaty 7, asking passersby what they knew about the Treaty. I was game and offered to be interviewed if they would pose for me. Being born and raised in Calgary I had periphery knowledge of Treaty 7 but I unfortunately did not answer well. put on the spot my memory failed me and I mumbled something vague. Despite my fumbled answer, they were still keen to participate in 100 Strangers. This is Rio. She is a theatre actor, though she was not cast in the Treaty 7 production. I had her pose and she instantly relaxed, clearly comfortable in front of the lens. Rio has a very cheerful smile and happy demeanour, but I choose this photo because of her enigmatic her Mona Lisa smile.

  • 014.100 Clarke

    I met this fellow street photographer right outside my office building; he was hard to miss as he was sporting a large film camera around his neck. This is Clarke. He’s a film photographer, shooting medium and large format film, often with expired stock which he develops himself. He prefers film for its ability to make large format prints and projections. Clarke has acquired quite a large collection of film cameras and spoke of camera models that I have never heard of, clearly passionate about his art and the tools of the trade. He told me that he experimented using photo-paper, the kind used in enlargers, cut down to 4×5 to fit in one of his cameras. He said it was challenging to make an exposure because the film “is about ISO 3” and it took a long shutter speed in bright light and often left ghosting on the image, but it’s an effect he likes. Clarke was a wealth of knowledge and a pleasure to meet. We still keep in touch, and I see him every so often in my wanderings. I’ve even had the pleasure of doing a photowalk with him.

  • 016.100 Meghan

    The weather was still cold for March and the snow had begun to fly again. At the end of my lunch break, I was about to head back into the warmth of my office when I noticed a fluffy hood standing out from the crowd. I paused to wait for the stop light to change and for the hood to cross the street. As she crossed the road and neared me I stepped toward her. I must have startled her out of deep thought because she jumped a bit as I said hello. I apologized, and, chuckling, she forgave me. We commiserated about the weather, and then I explained my project and asked if she would participate. This is Meghan. She works as an accountant near my office and was on her way to an appointment, so our time was limited, but she was still very friendly. I had hoped that my camera would pick up more of the snow falling around her, but I guess it was not falling heavy enough for that. At least some of the flakes caught in Meghan’s great hood are visible!

  • 018.100 Clarie

    Despite it being April, there was still a chill in the air and I wrapped a scarf around my neck as I headed outside with my camera. Most of the street crowd rushed along, bundled up tight, not eager to be out longer than necessary. More than usual, I felt like a hunter stalking the wilds: not a good mental state. The protracted winter was beginning to affect my psychological well being, slowly adding layers of difficulty to this already stretching project. I resigned myself to wait for the weather to turn, for the sun to shine and for the world to wake from its long hibernation. I turned around and began walking back to my office, my eyes still habitually scanning ahead. About half a block later, I caught a glimpse of a splash of colour against the drab surroundings: just the sort of stranger I wanted to approach to brighten the day. This is Claire. She and her friend came strolling down the street chatting happily with each other. I introduced myself and found out that they were on their way to buy a replacement ski pole; Claire had lost hers the previous weekend at the Kicking Horse ski resort. Both women spoke with slight accents, so I asked where they were from. Claire is from Ireland, and the more she spoke, the more apparent her Irish accent became. Knowing they were on a tight timeframe, I posed Claire in the middle of the street and photographed her further back than previous portraits I have taken, in order to best capture the beautiful combination of her dark blue scarf and fiery red hair.

  • 020.100 Chelsea

    The sun finally began to shine, the temperature had risen above freezing and I could not resist going out for a walk. I was frustrated that the tenacious grip of cold, overcast days had hindered my project, but today finally felt like spring was around the corner. I made my way down my usual route and shortly after I began the loop back, I spotted a harbinger of warmer weather. This woman’s bright flowery headband and her flowing blouse welcomed the sunshine and radiated back its warming glow: I had to talk with her. This is Chelsea. Her headband is new and she has already received many compliments, but still thanked me for noticing. As upbeat as her appearance is, her personality and spirit are brighter still. I walked with her for a while looking for a spot to photograph her while she chatted happily. She’s studying criminology and hopes to work with troubled youth, and spoke with fantastic exuberance and clarity of purpose. I asked why she’s pursuing this path, and she told me her past has provided her a reason and a role model who has fuelled her passion. Though my time with Chelsea was brief, she lifted my spirits with her bright attire, radiant disposition, and passion for life.

  • 022.100 Elodie

    As I walked back along the 8th Avenue mall, I came across a lady using her smartphone to take pictures of the street. I offered to take a picture for her so that she could be in it; she declined, but we started talking, and I noticed her lovely French accent. This is Elodie. She is from Normandy, France, but currently lives in Montreal. She’s out west visiting her boyfriend who lives in Lethbridge, and is in Calgary for the weekend. We spoke for quite some time, both of us enjoying the sunshine. Initially I was not going to ask her to be part of the project, as I usually like to make my photographic intent known at the beginning of an encounter to keep from muddling motives, but I enjoyed our interaction so much I decided to ask anyway. We continued to talk and walk until we got to a better lighting situation where I posed Elodie in some shade. One thing is becoming clearer as this project progresses and that is people can be amazingly generous and kind. So much of my interaction with the general public happens at a distance — in a car, behind a screen or simply transactional. It is easy, for me at least, to become jaded and cynical toward the behaviour of people. As this project proceeds, I’ve been blessed to encounter and experience people on a more personal level, and these Strangers have been so giving with their time, it really refreshes my spirit.

  • 024.100 Clark

    I’d had my eye on this man sitting on a bench, but for some reason it took me a while to approach him. This project has, in large part, been a mental game for me. Fear of rejection, fear of being intrusive, fear of lack of skill, questioning my motives. So what held me back from talking to this man on the bench? I don’t honestly know. I generally avoid people that appear to be homeless for the simple reason that I feel I don’t have much to offer them — the transaction is very one sided, and I don’t want to come off as voyeuristic. Something in this man’s eyes drew me in, though, and I finally went and sat on the bench next to him and said hello. This is Clark. He is nearing retirement age and has one of the most interesting retirement plans I have ever heard: he wants to go teach English to adults working in the construction business in either Central or South America. He wants to help enable folks to understand how to get a job in North America, how to read construction plans, etc. He has a background in construction and recently took an ESL certification course to enable him to teach. He told me he already has a teaching offer in Costa Rica. Clark and I talked for close to forty minutes about a variety of topics, and I found him to be a truly genial person. Though things have not always gone well for Clark, the world does not seem to have beaten him down. He says life has taught him that there are cycles and when an opportunity closes another will open, so he patiently waits for another door to open. He stays positive, hopeful and proud. This encounter with Clark has provided a small bit of hope; that maybe what I can offer anybody, no matter what they look like or where they are, is my time to simply listen to them.

  • 027.100 Hamzah

    This is Hamzah, Alexandra’s (026) boyfriend. He waited patiently while I photographed Alexandra, then stepped up for his turn. Hamzah is in his third year of Bio Chemistry at the U of C and wants to become a doctor. As we chatted, I noted his quiet intensity, a trait that definitely seems to complement his medical ambitions.

  • 028.100 Braden

    Sometimes when I’m out, I come across someone with something so unique about them that I just have to go up and try to strike up a conversation (and pursuing my “100 Strangers Project” had definitely helped my confidence in doing this!). This is Braden. He works as a graphic designer for a local oil field services firm. I thought that it was curious for a services firm to have an in-house designer and he agreed, but he really enjoys his position with the company. Like me, he was drawn to be outside today to enjoy the warmer air and sunshine.

  • 030.100 Iysha

    Though Amy (029) had provided a brief uplift, my rough patch continued, and I had another few days with four or five “no thank you’s” in a row. I began to really doubt myself: I have found that it helps to project confidence when approaching people, but I had not been feeling terribly confident, and I wondered if this was adversely affecting my success. Today I met up with Scott, and it was good to chat with him about our projects, the locations and the people we saw around us. As we rounded a corner of the plaza we saw a woman in a large black hat and bright red lipstick sitting with a friend. I went and introduced myself, and they said I looked familiar and asked if I was the one that had photographed them the other day. I said no, I would have definitely remembered. This is Iysha. She moved to Calgary a few years ago and works with her friend at a shoe store in the Downtown core, a job she likes particularly because of the employee discount, which helps supports her shoe buying habit.

  • 032.100 Zoe

    My encounter with Iysha and Golara (029 and 030) did wonders to restore my confidence and I left work with renewed vigour for my project. Though not a regular user of public transit, I’ve come to enjoy the opportunities it affords to talk with people. Today as I waited for the bus, my attention was caught by a young woman chatting to a friend beside me. I noticed that her eyes are this fantastic blue with specks of gold, and I knew they would photograph beautifully. This is Zoe. She was a bit surprised to be asked but was quickly encouraged by her friend Maleek. We were a little rushed for time, so I didn’t get a chance to find out much about her, but I really like how the above shot captures her freshness and the curiosity and compassion in her eyes.

  • 034.100 Brandon

    I stood watching the world go by on this warm spring day, enjoying the people-watching this project affords. As I leaned against the side of a building, enjoying the sunshine, I noticed a sharply dressed man walk briskly by. I could not resist his stylish look, so crossed over to him to introduce myself. At first he seemed a bit apprehensive, but it did not take him long to agree to pose. This is Brandon. He works in the marketing group of a law firm (a job he said he’s pleased to have, as it’s what he studied in university), and was heading to a meeting with a coffee in his hand. I didn’t want to make him late, so I quickly made his portrait and we parted ways.

  • 036.100 Donna

    Perhaps it was because I still had Rahi’s (035) dark gaze on my mind, but as I continued on my walk I noticed this woman’s large brown eyes and sleek hair. She was hesitant at first, and only agreed to be photographed once I’d given her my business card — fortunately I had some on me! This is Donna. Having agreed to participate in my project, she got quite into the photoshoot and wanted to see the shots I snapped of her, letting me know which ones she did or didn’t like. I took a few more shots than usual, but it paid off as this one is one of my favourite photos. Overall, this encounter was short as Donna had to hurry off with a colleague to a meeting, so I did not have a chance to find out where she worked or much else about her.

  • 038.100 Jason

    I was feeling much more upbeat and gregarious than usual on this day, and was rewarded with seeing an interesting fellow shortly after beginning my stroll: he popped out of the crowd with his distinct rockabilly vibe. This is Jason. He’s a chef at a local restaurant. Interestingly, he’s entirely self-taught, and simply challenged the Blue Seal exams (something that really impressed me!). Even though his companion immediately pulled out her phone to post about our encounter on Facebook — chuckling to herself the whole time — I sensed they were in a bit of a hurry, so we didn’t chat for very long.

  • 040.100 Carol

    This day, I wandered more than usual, venturing off my beaten path. I was scouting around for different places and backgrounds that might be useful, and wanted to find somewhere I could use a flash. As I meandered, looking for both location and my next Stranger, this woman’s warm smile caught my eye; when I approached, she said she was honoured to be part of my project. This is Carol. She is a recent graduate and works as a consultant in an international tech firm, a position that she really enjoys. We had an interesting discussion about the labour market in Calgary, both generally and for new grads, as I tried to find a good spot for her portrait. There was a lot of construction around us, so we moved off into a promising-looking alley. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a challenging location to shoot in as there were lots of reflections and signs, but Carol was very accommodating and gracious about me taking up her time. It was a real pleasure to meet her.

  • 042.100 Nate

    I left work for the day ever hopeful that I would find someone to photograph, even though it is difficult to find someone who’s not in a rush. After wandering for 20-30 minutes, I noticed someone across the street who looked interesting. He was wearing a large Rastafarian style black beret and was walking in a significantly more relaxed and carefree manner than the surrounding pedestrians. Even so I had to hurry to catch up. This is Nate. With a friendly chuckle he agreed to pose, and told me that he’s leaving in a couple weeks to tour the west side of South America for two months. We chatted more about his trip as I moved him into position: it sounded like it would be an amazing experience!

  • 044.100 Ryan

    I headed to a local skate park — one of the biggest in North America, and the only one in Calgary — as a new venue to look for Strangers. As schools weren’t yet out for summer, the park wasn’t too busy, but this worked to my advantage as I could wander through the bowls without getting in anyones way. I had the opportunity to talk with a few of the skaters and BMXers and when I asked if they minded me photographing them as they did their thing, most happily agreed and even repeated their tricks for me, eagerly coming back to see how they looked on the camera. This is Ryan. He was out with his friends enjoying the lunch hour sunshine. He is interested in photography and video and has a DSLR that he has been mostly using for video work. Ryan is more used to being on my side of the camera, but did a great job posing for me. A few months later, he emailed me asking for his photo, and said that my contact with him inspired him to get back into still photography work. I was pleased to hear that the few moments we interacted sparked something in him, even a small thing like getting back in touch with his photographic hobby.

  • 046.100 Jeremy

    I pass this blue temporary boarding frequently, and have wanted to use it as a backdrop for ages, but the light has always been either too harsh or too flat. As I passed by on this day, however, the light wasn’t too bad, and I saw someone that would work well against such a bold background. This is Jeremy. He had paused to pull a Metro paper out of the box and he was taking a peek inside as I approached him to ask for his photo. He was slightly apprehensive at first but when I explained further he became comfortable with the idea. I took a couple of frames, got his name and then he had to run to catch the train. A very short encounter but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

  • 048.100 Rex

    As this project develops for me and I grow in confidence, I have slowly grown in my ability to talk to people. I’ve found myself occasionally making light conversation with people with no intention of photographing them, but simply for the sake of being friendly. This photo came about because of one of those occasions. This is Rex. I had seen him many times while I people-watched on the street and finally introduced myself one day. After that I began to stop and talk with Rex every time I saw him on the street. At some point, he told me he used to do photography when he was younger, but had to give it up as his hands decreased in dexterity. Eventually he asked me if I was ever going to take his photograph; although I didn’t think I’d end up making Rex’s portrait when I first saw him, I would never have had the courage to make a new friend like this if it hadn’t been for the experience I’ve gained from this project, so I’m happy to include him here.

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