Week 1 of my 365 Day People Picture Project is now complete! This has been one of the most interesting and happiest weeks in my life. I knew when I started this project that I could possibly meet some interesting people, but I had no idea how profoundly I would be affected. Guess what? Every person we meet, every single day, is interesting and beautiful in their own way.
I was struck with the thought on Thursday, that "I'm happy. I feel really happy!" I've been overwhelmed with emotions and I've been feeling grateful to be alive. The pressure of peak season has eased a bit at work and combined with the start of this project, I'm feeling more like my old self again. I'm happy.
It has been only 7 days but I've already felt a huge impact from the people I've encountered this week. I have noticed one thing in these few short days. I feel less nervous approaching a man than I do when approaching a woman. It can feel intimidating to approach a woman. I realize part of the reason that I'm a little nervous approaching women is because I don't want to startle or scare them. Aside from that reason, I think we ladies can walk around looking completely un-approachable and we don't even realize it. I think it is difficult for us to let go of our thoughts and while our minds are drifting elsewhere, our bodies and faces can project a look of "stay away." I think another aspect to it could be that as women, we're always on guard. We have to be, for our own safety. I'm going to have to figure out how to gain enough confidence to be able to approach more women, but balanced confidence so that I don't become intimidating or annoying.
These pictures are "fresh daily." I'm not stockpiling photos. Part of the challenge for me is finding the courage to approach a stranger, and when I do find that nerve, it has been quite rewarding. Five out of these first seven days have been pictures of strangers but I started out with an easy one.
Day 1 - My Husband
I was able to ease into the project knowing that I was going to have dinner with my in-laws on day one. I knew I already had 4 potential subjects so I wasn't too stressed on day 1. I was hoping to get a perfect picture of my husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law but I just didn't get the right snap. It's ok. It was only appropriate to open the project with a photo of my husband. We've been married for 19 years and he's my best friend. He "gets me" and he still loves me anyway.
I have an extremely tight schedule with work and training for the Portland Marathon, so the majority of the pictures from Monday through Friday will be taken on my way to work in the morning. I had made it all the way to work on day 2 and hadn't been able to summons the courage to stop and ask a stranger if I could take their picture. I was near-meltdown, thinking I was already a huge failure and I was only able to make it 1 day into the project when all of the sudden, just a few footsteps away from the front door to my office, a nice young man named Trenton just happened to be walking by.
Day 2 - Trenton
Trenton was wearing headphones and my repeated attempts to get his attention were ignored so I sort of had to run after him and tap him on the shoulder. He removed one of his ear phones and I gave him the biggest smile I could muster and said "Hi! Are you in a hurry?" I was so nervous that I was actually shaking. I know I totally stumbled over the words but somehow I was able to explain that I had challenged myself to a 365 day picture project and asked if he'd be my #2. I was completely surprised, but he said yes without hesitation.
I asked if he wanted to share a quote and I could tell that he really wanted to say something meaningful but having caught him completely off-guard, he was stumped. Trenton was on his way to work when I stopped him, "another day another dollar," he said happily. Trenton made my day!
Day 3 - Bailey
Bailey is day 3. She was loading up her car in the parking lot of a motel when I spotted her. I had actually first spotted a professional-looking young lady in a great pencil skirt and blouse as she was walking down the street. I pulled my car over to the side of the road to take her picture but I could just tell that she didn't want to be bothered. Feeling a little bummed, I turned around and noticed Bailey. We were in sort of a bad neighborhood so I expected her to be extremely cautious of me but she was super friendly. She was hurried, but friendly. She and her friend were on their way to the coast. I asked if she had any dreams and she said she wants to be a Psychologist. I wonder if she was analyzing me?
After I took this shot, I realized there had been a shadow on her face. I explained there was a shadow and asked her to step to the side for another try. It was my first time giving direction to a subject! Wow! I was feeling like a photographer! Bailey is stunning. It doesn't look like she's wearing one bit of make-up and she still just radiates beauty. Although I did end up getting a better shot without the shadow, I was drawn to this photo and chose it over the others. Bailey wants to be a psychologist some day so the shadow seems appropriate. Psychology is about shedding light on the shadows of our minds.
Day 4 - Anna
Anna is day 4. I pulled into a park-and-ride bus stop on my way to work just knowing there had to be someone there willing to let me take a picture. It was peak rush hour time so I figured I had really good odds. I immediately spotted an older bearded gentleman who looked like a gnome incarnate. He rejected me. My first rejection…from a gnome. I was crushed. I thought I had been friendly but he still said no. I felt so defeated that I was just going to leave. I was walking back to my car when I saw Anna as she was waiting for a bus. Anna is a DJ and you can check her out on sound cloud. I loved her colorful hair and she was just such a sweetie!
Day 5 - "Anonymous Heroes"
"Anonymous Heroes" are day 5. I named them "Anonymous Heroes" because they're EMT's and, well, they save lives! Talk about bashful! I felt nervous approaching them. They have intense jobs and I didn't want to get in the way if they got a call or anything. But I really wanted to get a cool picture of them in their uniforms and looking through their window. I didn't exactly capture the look I wanted but that's because I'm inexperienced…things like this will improve with time. The passenger was so embarrassed. Before this shot, he was bright red and they weren't going to do it. I explained that, technically, I was a person in need and they would really be helping me. When I presented it that way, they couldn't refuse. It is in their nature to help people. For a couple of guys who are normally on the giving end of help, the quote I did manage to get from the passenger as I was taking his picture was "HELP ME!"
Day 6 - Joey
Joey is day 6. Joey had invited me to tag along to a concert/movie in the park to watch a Cure cover band. I arrived pretty early and I was glad I did. It was the best people-watching ever! If I hadn't imposed a rule on myself against stockpiling photos - I could have taken enough pictures to last for the whole year! I should have known that a Cure cover band would attract some of Portland's most interesting and beautiful people.
Joey is an artist, drummer, vegan, and he actually sewed a shark outfit for his little dog to wear. He just wrapped up a show in LA and he currently has a few of his paintings of Sharon Tate hanging in the former home she shared with Roman Polanski, the home where she was murdered. I won't tell you about the intense experience he had there, in the hopes he'll write about it on his blog. Let's just say, if you didn't believe in ghosts before, you certainly would if you heard his story. (Joey's wife is a constant source of inspiration and is basically the spark that helped ignite my little Miss Ellanea flame.)
"Bruce" is day 7. I'm really stumped on this one. I'm at a loss and don't know what I can and should share. It's a fun story, but I just don't want to get the guy in trouble and I feel like I owe my subjects a certain level of confidentiality/privilege. Bruce, if you ever read this, I'm sorry if I've over-shared.
I had just completed 21 brutal miles on my favorite trail at the lake. It was the slowest, ugliest, 21 miles in all of my training. I was having a horribly off day. It was another one of those times where the only reason I was able to finish is because there was absolutely no other way around it. I had to get back to my car. I was exhausted and stressed knowing that I still had to find a subject for the day. I had made up my mind that I was just going to ask Chase, a guy who does Kayak Rentals at the end of the trail, to be my subject. If Chase wasn't there, I was just going to ask whoever was working that day. I dragged myself across the pretend finish line (the kayak rental station) and they were absolutely swamped. I could hardly even stand at that point. I was dizzy and torn up. There was no way I could wait for them to finish checking in all of the soon-to-be-kayakers. Just then, I saw a beautiful older woman. She had beautiful eyes and I thought she would make for a striking black and white photo,given her dark hair, beautiful eyes, and beautiful complexion. I made it back to my car to collect my camera when I realized…I couldn't move another step. Although she was only about 50 yards away, that was 49 more than I could walk at that point. Did i mention, those 21 miles tore me up?
Plan B. Knowing that I didn't even have the strength to walk back to the woman, I decided that I was going to ask one of the people in the SUV parked right next to me. They looked like they were ready to leave so I had to act quickly. I quickly blurted out the question to the person standing closest to me, asking if he had time to let me take a picture? I briefly explained my picture project and he actually seemed genuinely interested. He said he didn't have time. They had to leave because they had to get to the airport. I was listening to the almost-rejection but still readying my camera. I explained it would only take a second…I could just take the picture right there in the parking lot. Here's the part where I don't know if I'm breaking our "privilege." His next question stuck me as odd. He said, "do I have to give you my real name? I can give you my fake name, but not my real name." I expect that many people throughout this project will give me "a" fake name but he specifically said, "my fake name" as though he has practice with a pseudonym. He was super nice and actually sort of encouraging and interested in the project. He explained that he can't use his real name because he would get in trouble with his job. He told me his name is "Bruce." By then, the family he was with noticed that poor "Bruce" was about to become my subject #7 and they started to check things out. A very nice lady came around the SUV to where we were standing and said "he's famous." "Bruce" minimized her statement and said, "well, almost-famous." I apologized and said I didn't recognize him. They had just finished Kayaking on the lake and were going to have dinner before heading to the airport to send "Bruce" back home to the east coast.
Trying to put Bruce at ease, I attempted to make friendly chit-chat (even though I felt like I could collapse at any moment) and I learned they were first going to have steamer clams for dinner before taking Bruce to the airport. Bruce specified, "steamers and oreos." I asked if he would like to be quoted, or if he could be quoted, and he said, "I love this dog, June." I thought he was making fun of me at that point, but then when I saw June, she was quite a pretty little pup and she was definitely a dog worthy of being praised by the famous or near-famous "Bruce."
I had a lot of fun with "Bruce" and his family/friends. They were all super friendly and and I even gave them my card. I was surprised by how patient they were considering they were under time constraints to leave. I was even more surprised and struck by how nice they were to me and how much genuine interest they seemed to have taken in the project. I was sweaty, smelly, dirty and gross. I tried not to get too close and at one point, I apologized, explaining I had just finished 21 miles. Not only were they encouraging of the project, but then they encouraged me for that accomplishment. Wow, talk about nice folks!
I left that interaction thinking about the cliche, "strangers are just friends we haven't met yet." My entire week has felt a little like this. We pass people by each day and if we took even just a moment to learn their story, how differently we may feel about others and ourselves. There are really good people out there. They are kind and patient, they are heroes in disguise, or even in a hero's uniform. The people I've met this week (and the two subjects I already knew) have given me the best week I've ever had. 51 more weeks of this? I'm in!
If you were one of my subjects from this week and happen to be reading this. Thank you. Thank you for your time, and for being willing to open yourself up to me. I'm wishing you the best!
NOTE: If you'd like to follow along on instagram, i'm "missellanea" and I'll post pictures daily. Thank you for coming along on week #1!