Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't talk to Strangers!

Don't talk to Strangers was a song made popular by Rick Springfield in the 80's..ahhh the good old days....  but his words aren't valid when, like me, you undertake a photographic project where you are tasked with taking a portrait of a stranger.  Well actually taking portraits of 100 strangers!

I lucked across a book by Melbourne man Neil Winch titled "100 Strangers". The book was portraits of 100 strangers and within those pages was a link to a flickr group.  Neil's images were compelling and being a bit of a flickrite  I followed the link and found myself on slapbang in the middle of a group of  nutbags who thought it was great fun to take portraits of complete strangers.  I immediately joined, but took up a spectator role (errr .... read lurker).  How do you start something like this?  On what day do you suddenly decide to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them for a photo?  

For me to opportunity arose on 13 August 2011 when I found myself at the Cessnock Regional Art Gallery.  It was opening night for an exhibition when I realised I was standing very near one of the artists.  Now or never came into my mind and I took the NOW option.  I walked up to the artist and introduced myself and asked if I could take his portrait.  He agreed.  HOW EASY WAS THAT!!!  1 down,  99 to go!!!  Flushed with success of stranger Number 1 it was a mere two days before strangers 2 and 3 were recorded on my sensor.  

So fast forward to March 2012 and I now have 43 strangers completed.....and what a mix they are!
I still have the nervous nellies before I approach someone, I still worry that I have missed focus on a  single shot and I still stumble over my words.  I have a couple of self imposed rules. No cropping and try to get it in a single shot. On the whole I think I am on track.  What I find now is that I spend a lot more time chatting to the subject  that I do pressing the shutter button!  And what amazing stories are coming my way.  I have always had a passion for Maritime History and William Bligh is a hero so how astounded was I when Stranger 9 confessed she is a 9th generation descendant of Fletcher Christian!!! Stranger 42 and I have a mutual friend and Strangers number 10, 14 and 21 all know each other!

So what will happen when I reach number 100???  Well I have bought 100 matching frames so I hope to find a wall big enough to exhibit them on.  

I still bottle it somedays.  I see someone I'd LOVE to photograph, but for a myriad of reasons don't. For those days I have another series.  Portraits of friends called "Strange, NOT Strangers" I'll tell you all about them another time.  So..........who wants to be my next stranger?

#1 Steven

#27 Jessie

#35 Ange

#38 Chris

#41 Lee

#43 Warwick

If you like what you see the whole 43 are visible at and, even more amazingly, I have since met and been on a shoot with Neil Winch.   I blamed him for this obsession!


  1. good to see!! i still have trouble asking peeps!

  2. "found myself on slapbang in the middle of a group of nutbags who thought it was great fun to take portraits of complete strangers. I immediately joined," Love it! Mot that they all arn't lovly but #27 is by far my favorite. Enjoy watching your progression thew your 100, I've just started min...looking for #3!

  3. Found your blog via 100Strangers discussion. You do great work behind the lens. I'm on stranger #30. How fun to frame them all.

  4. Currently sitting at 50 Strangers but having a little break for the moment. I will resume again shortly. I thought strangers would be confronting, challenging and anything but enjoyable, but it is actually very enjoyable. There is a real sense of achievement when you get one and come away with a reasonable shot. I do find I am talking to them longer now than in the beginning. I send each a copy of their image and love it when they reply!