Week 11 of the 365 Day People Picture Project ended with me crying and hugging a stranger I had just met.
Day 71 - Runner on the Heritage Trail
When I explain the project to potential subjects, I explain to them that I will Instagram their photograph that day and then do a little recap at the end of the week, here on the blog. I ask if they'd like to share their name, give a fake name, or just remain anonymous.
I didn't learn a whole lot about this anonymous subject but one of my Instagram friends is convinced he's a baseball player and now when I look at his picture, all I can see is a baseball player! I think she called it right.
Day 72 - DJ
This young man is DJ. When I approached DJ, with camera in hand, I barely got out 3 words before he was on-board with letting me take his photograph. Hmmm, for some reason, I think he may be used to having his picture taken!
DJ and his friends were tossing around a football when I spotted them. They were sporting neon clothes and bright shoes and they were impossible to miss! I felt like I had just stumbled onto commercial video shoot for Nike. After learning more about DJ, I realized I wasn't just picking up on their sense of style from their appearance, their style was an accurate projection of their real lives! DJ is currently rehabbing an injury sustained in a car accident but he'll return to play college football next year. In the meantime, DJ and his partner are the entrepreneurs behind Flight Skool Shoes.
I know we often describe women as stunningly beautiful, but is it ok to describe a man as stunningly handsome? There's no other way around it. DJ is stunningly handsome. Handsome, athletic, and entrepreneurial, and to top it off, he was a real gentleman. DJ presented himself with the professionalism and maturity of a man at least twice his age.
OK, so we've covered DJ's good looks but do you see the several mistakes I made in the picture? No matter how perfect the subject, you still need to check for distractions in the background. Ugggg, it pains me to look at the picture because of the stupid recycle bins and street post sign. Now you see it too, don't you? This was another very good reminder to me. Even when your subject is stunningly beautiful or stunningly handsome, you still have to do the work. You still have to check for background noise and distractions and then position yourself or the subject away from the noise.
I'm such an inexperienced photographer that I'm just shooting in auto and some of the preset "scene" modes. I like to think of this phase of the learning process as having training wheels. Because I'm shooting in auto, it should free me up mentally to learn and implement the fundamentals of composition. While I'm relying on my "training wheels," I can learn to pay better attention to horrible distractions. This is a critical step in learning to take better pictures. A misplaced recycling bin can ruin a picture, even when your subject is as handsome as DJ.
Day 73 - Oscar
I found Oscar at the top of Mt. Tabor Park. While dozens of other people were gathering at the look-out area to take pictures of the setting sun, I was at the center of the park, taking pictures of Oscar. I could tell he was gathering his things to go but he allowed me time to take his picture before leaving. This Oscar was not a grouch…this Oscar was a real nice guy.
Day 74 - My Father-in-Law
We had a little family get-together to celebrate my Father-in-Law's birthday. It's funny that my own Father-in-Law has been one of the most challenging subjects. He's usually the one taking the photographs, so it was a little stressful for him to be the subject for once. I'm actually glad it took us over a dozen pictures to get one that was usable because we all shared a lot of laughs during the process.
Day 75 - Man in the Park
I failed another person-with-dog photo. If I were successful, the title of this picture would have been: Man with "Spuds MacKenzie." He was walking a playful little Bull Terrier when I met the two of them in the park. Actually, we didn't just "meet," I had to chase them down. (I laugh at myself when I imagine what I must have looked like.)
I nearly made the same mistake with this subject as I had done with DJ, but this man actually pointed out that our background was a "dumpster." As we re-positioned him, he then purposely placed himself in the spot with the best lighting. It became obvious to me that he was an experienced photographer. He helped to correct me with the lighting and by eliminating the background distraction, but I appreciate that he let me fumble through my mistakes. And, because I fumbled through my mistakes, I didn't capture a good shot of both him and his dog. They're another candidate for a do-over, should I ever meet them again.
Day 76 - Wendy
Friday, I sent out another SOS text to my friend Anne, letting her know that I was still looking for a subject and asking if she happened to be out on the town. Not only was she happy to meet me, but she volunteered her friend, Wendy, to be day 76. Luckily, Wendy agreed! I like this picture in black & white, but I love Wendy's new hair color more, so I decided to share this one with you.
Day 77 - Tammy
Tammy was a complete stranger to me this morning, but within a matter of minutes - we were crying and hugging. Well, she managed to dam her tears but my tears definitely spilled onto my cheeks.
I arrived at my favorite trail this morning and immediately spotted Tammy. I don't know why, but it has always been my preference to look for subjects after I finish my walk. The minute I saw her, I thought she would make a great subject but it just didn't feel right to break my routine of walking first, taking pictures after. Something compelled me. I got my camera and journal and walked over to Tammy's car. In the short time I had been debating on whether or not to ask her, she had gotten back into her car which made me even more apprehensive about asking her. I don't like to approach someone while they're sitting in their car. It just feels too bold and intrusive. But, again, I was compelled.
I gave Tammy my spiel about the picture project but I couldn't quite get a read on if she was going to agree or not. She then responded, "You should wait for my daughter. I have a beautiful daughter." I replied back, "I don't know, you're pretty beautiful yourself." She asked a few more questions about the project and about my blog so I explained how it all came about…that I started a blog but quickly realized I have a boring life which means I have no content to sustain a blog! As a solution, I decided to finally learn photography and challenge myself to take a picture of a person every day for a year.
I wasn't prepared for what came next. Tammy told me that I was inspiring her. She said it a few times and then she opened up. She explained to me that she's going through a divorce after having been married for 25 years. She explained how she's wanting to re-invent herself and running has been one of the ways in which she was planning to do so. She told me a little more about her situation and I was heartbroken for her. I felt the weight of the sadness she must be feeling and I just couldn't hold back the tears. (Tammy gave me permission to tell the story of our encounter this morning but I don't want to share too many details.)
I was so touched that my little project could have a positive influence on another person, especially someone who was hurting. There we were, two strangers, having a conversation as meaningful as those shared by the best of friends. Tammy and I concluded that we were meant to be placed in each others lives at that moment. She was able to draw some inspiration from the challenge I have given myself, and I received kindness and encouragement from her.
While on my walk, I continued to think about Tammy and the process of her re-invention. Although I feel empathy for the painful experience she's going through now, I'm excited for her as she starts the process of self-discovery and re-discovery.
Tammy, if you happen to read this - I hope when you look at this picture, you will see the same beautiful woman that I saw this morning.
Thank you for checking in on week 11. I'm starting to accumulate a little bit of information and soon, I will have enough to report back to you and share the things I've learned so far. I think I'm learning a little more about people than I am about photography.
Remember, If you'd like to follow along daily, my Instagram and Twitter username is: @missellanea. I've temporarily turned off the comments here on the blog while I combat comment-spammers. It's a fairly easy fix and comments will be turned on again soon. In the meantime, you can always e-mail me, or message me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
If you are a subject in this project, thank you for your time and for letting me take your picture. You have touched my life in ways which are impossible for me to articulate. Thank you.