Can you believe it? We're three months into the 365 Day People Picture Project! Week 13 was feeling a little hollow as I was mentally preparing the summary that I wanted to share with you, but it ended on both a happy and heavy note. My co-worker and friend, Randy, remarked that he likes it when I share more information about each subject. I agree with him! I explained to him that I don't always learn a whole lot about the subjects in this project. Some of the interactions have been so brief, they're mere seconds. It is for this reason that week 13 was feeling a little incomplete. I didn't do a nice job of really connecting with each person and the majority of the interactions with this week's subjects were quite short. That lack of a connection not only makes for a short read, but it also has a huge impact on whether or not I can truly catch someone's sparkle.
When I'm trying to take a picture, it is my responsibility to temporarily suspend anything that is on my mind so that my single focus is on the person before me. Over time and with a lot of hard work, I will eventually learn the technical skills of photography. The skill that is critical for my progress right now, is the ability to let go of everything else and engage with each subject. We have to connect.
Day 85 - Jeffery and his nephew, Matt
Jeffery and Matt were walking down the street when I chased them down to ask if they would let me take their picture. I know they look like tough guys but they were both soft-spoken and quite gentlemanly.
Day 86 - Virgil
The Broadway Cigar Company is near my work and I've often wondered what it's like inside. I've also been thinking it could be a great resource for potential subjects. I decided Monday would be the day that I explore the shop and introduce myself to ask if I could come back in the future. When I walked in, Virgil raised his eyebrows in surprise…I don't think they get very many women visitors.
I explained that I wasn't there for cigars, but rather to ask a favor. I explained the project to Virgil and he obliged my request to be day 86. He gave me the names of the owners, so I might just be back in touch. I just know the shop must get all kinds of interesting customers who would be great subjects! I felt a little like I was intruding on a secret men's club - so I would definitely want to get permission before a return visit.
Day 87 - David
David is the 3rd Plaid Pantry person in this project. Plaid Pantry is a chain of convenience stores in Portland and I don't think I've ever met a Plaid Pantry worker that I didn't like. The employees are always pretty cool people. The challenge with each of the three, is that I've had to work quickly to get the picture before any customers are ready to check out.
Day 88 - Tim
It was a dark and stormy night. I mean, it really was a dark and stormy night! I started my commute home and was really starting to stress about finding a subject in the rain. I didn't want to hit the mall but I just couldn't think of anyplace else to find a subject. As I was sitting in traffic, I realized I was right next to a Les Schwab Tire Center. Les Schwab is known for their amazing customer service. When you pull into a Les Schwab, they come running out to your car to help you! I'm not making this up - they actually run to you! (ok, so it's technically more like a trot.)
It couldn't have been more perfect - all I would have to do is pull into the parking lot and my subject would come running out to greet me! It felt a little like cheating but I decided to give it a try since there were no cars in the lot and it was shortly before closing time. Sure enough, the moment I pulled in, Tim came running/trotting out to help me! I explained I was actually stopping by for a strange favor and Tim was happy to help with the project.
Day 89 - Natasha
Natasha is the new owner of the Nectar Cafe, in the Hollywood District. She makes a perfect Americano! I stopped by for the caffeine but left having also found a great subject for the day. This coffee shop is so cozy, I just wanted to hang out and be still for a while.
Day 90 - Matt
I maintained the new Friday routine of meeting my friend Anne to hunt for a subject at Charlie's. I was having trouble finding just the right person and then I discovered Matt. He was playing pool with his friends. I approached Matt's table and asked if he would be willing to help me with my picture project. Matt was bashful but his friend wasn't! His friend told me, "yes, he'll do it!"
Matt asked a few questions about the project and seemed genuinely interested in how it came about and how it was moving along. Although he was bashful at first, it quickly felt like Matt was just a friend I hadn't met yet. I was enjoying our talk because he's just the kind of person you'd want to hang out with. Although Matt was one person who I was afforded the time to actually connect with, we were still having problems getting the shot.
Even though we were having a nice conversation, when it came time to take the picture…we were both nervous! He's as nervous to have his picture taken as I am when I ask someone if I can take their picture! He wanted direction from me, but I still lack the confidence and skill to direct someone on how to "give" the picture that I'd like to take.
There's so much to learn! In addition to the technical skills of photography, I also need to learn how to put people at ease. I need to gain confidence and learn how to "direct" a subject on how to move if they're feeling uncomfortable or unsure of what to do. Once we're both comfortable and confident, then we will end up with a picture we both love. I want people to look at their picture and feel good about themselves.
Day 91 - Nancy and her dog, Patty
I spotted Nancy and Patty in the park, just as Patty bolted away from Nancy and gave chase to a squirrel. I wasn't going to ask Nancy to be a subject because she looked like she had her hands full with her little squirrel hunter but after walking around the park for a while, I decided they were meant to be day 91.
Nancy happily agreed to a picture before I even finished my spiel. The first thing she said was, "I'm not very photogenic but Patty is!" Nancy turned out to be quite photogenic, but there wasn't a thing I could do to win Patty's attention away from the squirrel.
After I've taken a person's picture, I often ask them if there's anything they would like me to promote on my blog. (such as their business, band, art, their own blog, etc.) Nancy responded, "I want to promote peace, love, forgiveness, tolerance, and to be kind to animals." She then went on to say that "as you get older, you realize that nothing else really matters. When you reach the end of your life, the only thing you really have is the relationships you had with others." Nancy's sister died a few years ago. Near the end of her sister's life, they had to move her from her beautiful home and into a care facility. When her sister moved into the facility, the belongings she had accumulated over her entire lifetime had to be pared down to just one box. The experience caused Nancy to realize the importance of relationships over any material possessions.
I thanked Nancy and was on my way, but my mind was still deep in thought about everything Nancy had said. I've been feeling the same way for several years now. I think we can't help but reach that realization as we reach the age when we have more years behind us than we, potentially, have in front of us. I was holding back tears once again. I was touched and impacted not only by the content of Nancy's words, but also because of our interaction…our connection. Another woman I had just met, opened up and shared a difficult experience and the weight of everything she said just hit me all at once.
Day 91 Bonus - Stephen and BeBee Baby
I was still writing down notes from my conversation with Nancy as I was waiting for the crosswalk signal to change and when I looked up, there was Stephen. He asked what I was reading and I said that I was just taking notes. He wanted to know what kind of notes, so I explained the project. I asked if he would be my "bonus" for today and he agreed, saying, "I love to have my picture taken!"
Stephen was just a character! He said he lived in Hollywood many years ago and he's been in a few movies, as an extra. He then told me that he was related to "Lewis." Having just talked about Hollywood, I thought he meant Jerry Lewis but he corrected me that it was "Meriwether Lewis, you know, Lewis and Clark." I believe Stephen.
Stephen and BeBee Baby had just come from the grocery store and PetCo. I looked in the basket and could see that BeBee Baby was sitting on top of a few groceries. Unless there's a PetCo that I don't know about, the closest store is a few miles away so the two of them had quite the ride! Stephen assured me that BeBee Baby was secured in her basket.
Stephen and I visited a while longer before saying good-bye. I had already been holding back the tears from my interaction with Nancy and after saying good-bye to Stephen, I couldn't hold them back any longer. I hoped Stephen and BeBee Baby would be ok. I hoped they are having a nice life. I hoped that Stephen has relationships with still-living family and friends. And then I thought, what matters most to Stephen may not even take up an entire box - perhaps what matters most to Stephen was right there in the basket in front of me. His Be Bee Baby.
Thank you for following along with me and this challenge. These 91 people, and Stephen the bonus, are changing my life and I can't wait to see what the next 9 months bring. I hope that you're enjoying this as much as much as I. I'll work harder at trying to get to know people a little better and then I'll do my best to report that back to you.
If you've been a subject in this project - thank you. Thank you for your time, and thank you for your kindness.
Have a great week!