Hello! Thank you for checking in on week 20 of the 365 Day People Picture Project.
If you're checking in for the first time, I'm not a photographer. I started this blog and quickly realized, I'm not a blogger either. This presented a bit of a problem. Successful bloggers need interesting and photo-rich content to capture people's attention. Feeling like I didn't have blog-worthy life experiences, and knowing that I certainly didn't know a thing about photography, I decided to face this seemingly-impossible-to-solve problem head-on, and make a go at it anyway.
I challenged myself to take a picture of a person every single day, for an entire year, and share that process with you. The majority of the subjects have been complete strangers. Also included, so far, are a few friends, family, co-workers, a couple rock stars and a famous author. I post the pictures to Instagram each day, and if you'd like to follow along, my username is @missellanea.
As soon as local photography workshops start up again, I will join in a few, but in the meantime, I've just been absorbing information from photography blogs and videos. Although I started this project to learn about photography, I'm learning far more about myself and about people. It's getting a little easier for me to approach people, but I still have a long ways to go before we'll be able to see an observable and measurable improvement in my photography skills.
Day 134 - Ron
Ron is an acquaintance of Scott, from day 83.
I'm beginning to see that Anne and Scott's hangout is basically a version of "Cheers," with both of them being like the "Norm" character. They both know everybody and were it not for them and their willingness to let me hang out with them while I search for a subject, the project could have ended by now.
There have been days when I've been completely unable to find a subject. Sometimes the reason is that I can't seem to find a person who looks approachable, sometimes I simply lack the confidence to approach someone, and sometimes I simply can't find anyone who is agreeable to letting me take their picture. It is on those days that I end up at their "Cheers," and someone always saves the day and the project! Ron was one such person.
When I asked Ron the happiest thing happening in his life, he responded, "…that I woke up this morning and that I've got a job I've had for 31 years and I still love what I do."
I also introduced a new question and asked Ron if he's performed any recent random acts of kindness. Ron thought about the question for a long time. I could tell by the look in his face, he was feeling a little discouraged. He said, sadly, he hadn't gone out of his way to do an act of kindness. Ron was specifically referring to giving money to a person or organization. I reminded him that he was letting me take his picture, which would help me with this project, and that was an act of kindness. I then probed a little further and suggested that he surely must do something kind, such as hold the door open for people or visit with a cashier at the store. He happily agreed, "yes, I'm a gentlemen! I always treat people the way I want to be treated!"
Day 135 - Jesse
Jesse is another friend of Scott and Anne's. Is this cheating? (Twice in one week?)
Even though I had made several stops on my way home, I hadn't been able to find an approachable subject. It was Christmas Eve - Eve and I think people were in get-stuff-done mode. I didn't want to interrupt people who looked like they were deep in thought or intent on wrapping up their last minute power-shopping. So, I ended up back at "Cheers."
I'm glad that circumstances led me back there. Jesse is a cool person and there could possibly be another family + dogs portrait session in the near future. (Remember my first hilarious attempt at family + dog portraits back on week 18?)
When I asked about the happiest thing going on right now, Jesse responded, "my job." Jesse is among the top 10 salespeople at her job. Jesse attributes her success to being sincere, personable, and working to build a good rapport with customers.
I asked Jesse if she's performed any recent acts of kindness or intends to in the future. Jesse humbly responded, "I try to do at least 2 or 3 a day." Overhearing our "interview," Jesse's friend interjected - "Jesse is the nicest person you'll meet!" The friend then proceeded to tell me that just a few minutes before I arrived, Jesse had given gas money to a person who was stranded at the gas station next door and this is the sort of thing Jesse does all the time!
Day 136 - Megan
Megan is a family friend. We spent Christmas Eve together. As I was writing this, I was struck with the realization that she was in grade school when we first met and now she's grown into a beautiful woman.
Christmas Eve was so low-key and enjoyable. There were only 7 of us but we had enough food to feed more like 37 people. We were all so stuffed and content just being cozy, Megan was the only one willing to be the subject for the day.
I asked Megan about the happiest thing happening in her life, she responded, "I have someone who loves me."
Megan and I live in the same area, so when she told me about her recent act of kindness, I knew exactly who she was talking about. A young homeless couple and their dog have been hanging around the same part of town for a few months now. Megan recently picked up fast-food on her way home and after seeing the couple sitting on the sidewalk, she decided to give them the meals she had just purchased.
Day 137 - Lou
Lou was the subject on Christmas Day. He's practically family. Lou is married to one of my very best friends, Debbie, from day 105.
Although Debbie and Lou have been together for several years now, sadly, I know little about him. We always joke that when we're all together, none of the husbands can say a word because we girls are always laughing and talking so loudly! We don't shut up! Poor Lou. I know he's an interesting and special person, but we don't get to hear it from him. I just know how special he is because of the way he loves and cares for my dear friend. And for that, I love him too.
Practically the only time we get to hear much from Lou, is when his band, Bad Habit, plays a show. Until recently, Bad Habit has been mainly a classic rock cover band and I'm not sure who has more fun at their shows - the band, or us! Recent changes in the band are resulting in more original songs and the second happiest thing happening in Lou's life right now is he's got a lot of new music coming out. Lou said, "just getting ready to celebrate 10 years together with Debbie," is the happiest thing happening in his life.
I didn't even have to ask Lou if he's performed a recent act of kindness…I know first hand that he had just finished an act of kindness less than an hour before this picture was taken.
This really deserves it's own post and I need to carve out the time to tell you more about Project Brown Bag Northwest. For now, pardon me while I give you the short version.
If you remember last year, one of my very first posts was around Christmas time and it was about Project Brown Bag Northwest. We've continued to press on with Project Brown Bag, not nearly as much as we would like to, but we're continuing with our efforts to distribute brown bag snack lunches to homeless people.
On Christmas day, we went to Downtown Portland and handed out hot chocolate, soup and snack sack lunches, and distribute gloves, hats, scarves and blankets that we had collected from friends and/or purchased ourselves. Lou is instrumental in Project Brown Bag Northwest. Although all of our families contribute, Lou and Debbie contribute a big portion of the supplies and the space to store and assemble our bags. In addition, they "live" Project Brown Bag Northwest on a daily basis, rather than just on the days that we get together to distribute bags en masse.
We didn't exchange gifts with each other or even share dinner together, but we all agreed this was the best Christmas we had ever had.
Lou is actually a soft-spoken (if we ever let him get a word in) teddy bear, but I realize this picture makes him look pretty tough. I told him it was his rock star look, but I don't think he was convinced. The badass look is entirely due to the "squinch!" (Lou humored me and we practiced Peter Hurley's "squinch" technique.)
Day 138 - Stylish Man at the Bus Stop
Thursday was another challenging day. I wandered around the Hollywood District, in Portland, for quite some time. Several people had politely and not-so-politely declined me when I asked if I could take their picture. Just as I was about to give up and move on to someplace else, I spotted this man sitting on a bench and waiting for the bus. I approached him and asked if I could take his picture for my picture project. I was so happy when he agreed! As I readied the camera, another man at the bus stop told me that I'd better hurry, the bus is coming! I looked up and saw that it wasn't actually coming, it was already there!
I quickly snapped the picture and told the man that since his bus was here, we wouldn't have time for me to ask him my question. He asked, well, what's the question? "What's the happiest thing going on in your life right now," I asked. "Life itself," the man replied, as he boarded the bus.
Did you notice the little angel above this man's left shoulder? I didn't love the giant cheeseburger in the background, but I loved the angel and thought it was appropriate that this nice man had a little angel on his shoulder.
Day 139 - Jake and Jake
I was loading my car after my Costco trip and after I found a place in the trunk for a 192-pound bag of lemons, I looked up and saw these two. The picture project force was definitely with me at that moment. Jake and Jake were characters!
I didn't get to learn a whole lot about them because they were busy eating! They had just hit up the Costco deli right before we had met. I asked the happiest thing going on their lives and the Jake on the left responded, "this cookie." The Jake on the right responded, "this hot dog!"
I asked if they had recently performed any acts of kindness and the the Jake on the left said that he had just picked up a bunch of friends from the airport. The Jake on the right said that he hadn't done anything and declared that he's "pretty much an ass@%$*." They were so likable, I was certain that the Jake on the right must have recently performed some sort of kind act. I pried a little more but Jake on the left agreed that yes, he really is an ass.
I'm still not buying it!
Day 140 - Sparkle Josh
The weather was unseasonably pleasant today, so I decided to look for a subject at Esther Short Park, in Downtown Vancouver, Washington. When I arrived at the park, I could see that a fairly large wedding party was in the process of their photo shoot. I stayed out of the photographer's way and as I was walking around the group, I noticed a guy sitting on a bench. He was dressed so stylishly, I assumed he was with the wedding party, although he wasn't dressed like the groomsmen. I approached the guy and asked if he was with the wedding group. He confirmed he was. I asked if I could take his picture for my project and he agreed and joked that we could have our own little photo shoot.
When I asked him his name, he said that his friends call him "Sparkle," but that his name is Josh. I inquired as to why he was on the bench instead of taking pictures and Josh replied, "I'm sort of the black sheep."
Black sheep or not, when I asked Josh the happiest thing happening in his life, he gestured to the wedding party and said, "my Brother's wedding." Josh joked that he was also happy that there was going to be an open bar at the reception.
Josh was a sweetheart and when I asked if he has performed any recent acts of kindness, he explained that he does volunteer work for the gay and lesbian community.
When I remember and when time allows, I ask the subjects if I can promote anything for them on my blog. (such as their own blog, business, band, art, etc.) Josh said he would just like to promote "equality, happiness, for everyone to get along, and happy shit like that."
I really liked Josh. After I drove away, I wished that I would have asked him if I could be his date and crashed the wedding! Perhaps it's a good thing that I hadn't thought of this brilliant idea until after I had driven off.
This post could end right here - but I've decided to tell you something. I entered a photography contest! I know, I know…for 140 days, I've been telling you that I'm not a photographer, so why in the world would I enter a photography contest? The sole reason that I decided to enter is because the contest isn't judged on the technical quality of the photograph, but rather, the ability to direct a subject to "squinch."
That's right! Peter Hurley, the photographer behind the "It's all about the Squinch" video and the "It's all about the Jawline" video, is having a contest and I decided to enter. If you've been following along, you know that I stumbled upon Peter Hurley's videos after starting this project and and that I've been working on the "squinch" with several subjects since first watching the video.
Although I have a burning desire to learn photography and it's a huge motive for even starting this project, I'm also realistic that I've started learning about photography at such a late point in my life, I know that I will never master it. I'm currently struggling with my understanding of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I know I'll never master these technical aspects of photography, but from the moment I watched Peter Hurley's videos, I immediately grasped that there are a few directorial techniques I can implement which will help people to give more flattering photographs. I want for people to feel good about themselves when they look at a picture I've taken of them.
To enter the contest, you were to submit a side-by-side photo showing a person before-squinch and after-squinch.
Do you remember Andrew, the kid from last week who crashed my mini photo-shoot with Nubby? I decided to submit his photo. Aside from not being a photographer, there were two huge issues working against me:
1) In all of the pictures I had taken of Andrew, I had been directing him to squinch, so I didn't really have a good "before-squinch." I only had a picture showing a lesser degree of squinching.
2) My favorite picture of Andrew and the one in which he had the best squinch, is a picture of him smoking. Smoking is such a taboo, I agonized about whether or not to submit the photo. I finally decided to go for it after realizing some of my favorite photographs are of people smoking.
I suspect that anyone who has looked at the picture I submitted, has probably questioned my decision to make such a submission. (Perhaps even my photography idol, Peter Hurley, has questioned my decision to submit the photo and perhaps even made fun of me? Well, he doesn't even know me - but you know what I mean, it's possible he thought, "what kind of a person would submit such a photo" when he came across my submission) But, what's done is done. I think Andrew was a beautiful subject and I love the picture. (But I do wish him good luck and hope that he's successful in his effort to quit smoking soon.)
Most of the other submissions, with a few exceptions, appear to be from professional photographers or at least of professional-level quality. Hey, what can I say? I'm not a photographer, I submitted a photo taken at night, on the patio of the Doug Fir Lounge, of a complete stranger whom I asked to "squinch" within the first 5 minutes of knowing him.
You can check out the other submissions here. The contest ends on New Year's Eve. I'm not expecting to win or even place - but I'm just happy I got up the nerve to make a submission, even if my entry was quite unconventional.
If you're new to this project or if you've been following all along, I'm honored that you've taken the time to read this and share in my project. Thank you.
If you've been a subject in this project - thank you. This is really your project and you showed me a great deal of kindness when you let me take your picture. Thank you for your time and your generosity.
Wishing you a very happy and successful new year!