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?
If you like what you see the whole 43 are visible at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nammo/sets/72157627426152748/ and, even more amazingly, I have since met and been on a shoot with Neil Winch. I blamed him for this obsession!