Thank you for checking in on week 27 of the 365 Day People Picture Project! If this is the first time you've stopped by, I've challenged myself to take a picture of a person every day for a year. The pictures are taken each day - I'm not stockpiling pictures for use at a later time. I've never taken a photography class and I still don't know how to use my camera properly, but I'm excited about an upcoming photography workshop that I'll join next month! Maybe now, we'll be able to see some improvement.
The majority of the people in this project have been strangers that I've met walking down the sidewalk, or in my day-to-day life. Also included are friends, family and few co-workers. The interactions I've had with each subject has varied from about 45 seconds, to a few minutes. (With the exception of my friends and aquaintences.)
Given my schedule and commute, I'm unable to spend hours looking for a particular "type" of person. Sometimes I take a picture of the very first person I see after I leave work. Although I would love to be able to wander Downtown Portland, looking for interesting characters, I've grown to appreciate the added pressure of the time constraints. It's been both challenging and thrilling to try to capture someone's picture before their bus comes to take them away. One other huge benefit of not being able to seek out a person with a particular look, is that I've been able to realize that every person we meet has their own unique sparkle.
I post the daily picture to instagram, and then post a summary of the week here on the blog. If you'd like to follow along, my instragram username is @missellanea.
Day 183 - Chuck
We were still in the midst of "snowpocalypse 2014" on Sunday and the options for a subject were going to be extremely limited. I thought back to the rules I had set for this project and recalled that I hadn't said that I wouldn't repeat the same person twice. If we weren't going to leave the house during the snow storm, I considered taking another picture of my husband. He suggested that I should take a picture of our our dog, Tabor. I had to remind him that although he's our baby, he's not human, and technically not eligible to be a solo subject in the 365 Day People Picture Project.
As home-improvement-project-luck should have it, we were forced to leave the house for yet another trip to Lowe's, and on the way home, we made a quick stop at the store for gas and groceries.
Chuck was getting gas on the other side of the pump from me. He didn't seem at all annoyed or confused when I asked if I could take his picture for the project. Our interaction was short and efficient. I asked Chuck about the happiest thing happening in his life right now, and he replied, "my grandkids." Chuck wasn't a talkative fella, and when I asked if he's performed an act of kindness, he simply replied, "not that I'm aware of."
Chuck has beautiful ice blue eyes! I've been fascinated by Chuck's picture. Is it just me, or does it seem like it would be impossible to guess Chuck's age, were it not for his silvery beard?
Day 184 - Erin
The snow and the freezing rain had finally stopped, and we started to thaw out from the storm on Monday. The streets and sidewalks were now at the icy-slushy stage. After work, I carefully made my way to one of my go-to spots for subject-finding. I don't think I've specifically explained this area or this process. I simply park my car and walk around until I encounter a person. Sometimes there are several people from which I can choose. Other days, I have to ask the first and only person I encounter. I think the storm put a chill on people's mood, because I got rejected three times that day, before finally bumping into Erin.
It still hurts my feelings when I get rejected. I had to remind myself that whenever I've been rejected, I end up meeting someone extra special and I've always been glad, in the end, to have been rejected. Erin was that extra special kind of person.
I asked Erin about the happiest thing happening in her life right now, "I'm going on a trip to Vancouver," she replied. We both laughed when she clarified, "Vancouver, Canada, not Vancouver, Washington."
Erin is an attorney and when I asked if she had performed a recent act of kindness, she said that she had just taken on a client's case, pro bono. I was a little surprised when Erin questioned if that counted. An attorney who helps someone who doesn't have the means to pay for for their services, is performing a huge act of kindness.
I also asked Erin what she would like to do with her life, if money were no object or no limitation, "travel," she replied.
Day 185 - Patsy
This is Patsy. I met him walking down the sidewalk.
When I asked Patsy the "happiest thing happening in your life" question, I was shocked by his answer. I'm sure it was harmless, especially considering what a nice guy he is. But, I'm still not going to say it. After our "interview," I asked him if there's anything else he wanted to say instead of the answer he had given me. He wondered why I wanted him to change his answer. I explained that it could be perceived as a little concerning, but he insisted that it's something that was making him happy. I finally came out with it and said that his answer just kind of scared me a little, to which he replied, "well, that's what you get when you ask a stranger if you can take their picture!" He said it jokingly, and I didn't feel at all threatened by him. I could tell he has a good heart, but I just don't want anyone who is reading this to get the wrong idea about him - so I'm just going to keep his answer to myself.
When I asked Patsy if he had performed a recent act of kindness, he said that he had just shoveled the driveway and sidewalk of his 87 year old neighbor. He had also transported his co-workers to and from work during the snow storm.
I asked Patsy what he would be doing with his life if money were no concern. "I'd be home taking care of my brother with M.S.," he replied.
Day 186 - Mercedes
I met Mercedes when she was waiting at the bus stop. She was wearing her headphones so I had to try hard to get her attention. It's such a delicate balance trying to flail your hands and arms with just enough effort to catch people's attention, but not so much as to freak them out by the sight of, you know, a crazy lady flailing her hands and arms.
I asked Mercedes about the happiest thing happening in her life and she replied, "I just got a new job!" She has one week left at her old job and then she's moving on to her new job which she'll be able to provide a lot of help and service to those who need it.
Mercedes' recent act of kindness is that she had just given money to a woman in the grocery store who ended up being a few dollars short on her purchase. Mercedes paid the difference.
I asked Mercedes what she would be doing with her life if money were no concern. She wants to "aid people in any way possible". She would also like to backpack. We both day-dreamed for a brief moment on what it would be like to be able to travel with a backpack full of money and be able to help whoever needed it. Although our interaction was brief, I was touched by Mercedes' kind-hearted nature, and how much she's driven to do good in this world. There have been several people in this project who have left a deep impression on my heart and mind. Mercedes is one of those people. I wish her well and hope that she's successful in her journey to help people.
Mercedes is a beautiful girl but I was having a hard time capturing it. (Due to my lack of knowledge and skill.) I had already made up my mind that I wanted to show her in black & white, so I was focused on getting a shot that would be suitable for black & white. I didn't think about it at the time, but I've now had trouble getting a picture with 2 other people in that very same spot. In my mind, it's a perfect spot for a night photo. I like how the light from window of the business we're standing next to shines on the person, and how the headlights from the approaching cars in the background gives the feel that we're on pause as the rest of the world is hurriedly passing us by. However, that perfect shot exists only in my mind. I think the degree of difficulty in getting a good shot in that spot, exceeds my capabilities at this point.
When I got home that evening to prepare Mercedes' picture for instagram, I got a pleasant surprise. I haven't appreciated sepia until I started this project. This project has made me realize that it takes a special kind of image to look nice in sepia. As I was preparing Mercedes' picture, I discovered that she's a person who looks nice in sepia! I actually have an edited version of this picture that I was tempted to share with you but I couldn't make up my mind if I had successfully experimented in a more artistic look, or if I had just completely blown it. It is basically an exaggerated version of this picture. The other version is a stronger vignette, with the majority of the photo dark, except for the glow from Mercedes' face, almost as if she were being lit by candlelight or some sort of up-lighting. If she were a singer, I could imagine the photo as an album cover. However, because I don't consider myself creative or artistic, I just couldn't trust my assessment of the image as being artistic.
Day 187 - Ben
This is Ben. I saw him sitting outside at Starbucks and told myself that if he was still sitting there after I parked my car and made it back across the busy street to where he was sitting, then I would ask him if I could take his picture.
I asked Ben the happiest thing happening in his life and he quickly responded, "my wife."
When I asked Ben if he had performed a recent act of kindness, he was having trouble thinking of something. Normally, I don't push, but since I had learned that this was "Random Acts of Kindness Week," I wanted to have something to share. After thinking about it, Ben explained that his boss really needed help with something. Ben trudged into work, during the snowstorm, on a Saturday, to help his boss with the issue.
After talking with Ben for a while, I learned that he also makes short films. You can see his work at mercerlunden.com. When I asked Ben what he would be doing with his life if money were no concern or limitation, he said that he would be making films, growing a garden, and watching T.V. We laughed when I said that he's already living the dream! Well, I'm not sure if he's growing a garden or not, but it sounds like he's close.
I watched a few of the films on the website. Given the nature of this project, I was particularlly struck by this short film, "A Picture of My Parents."
Day 188 - Kathy
This is my dear friend, Kathy. We've been friends for 30+ years. We met in the 3rd grade, when our schools competed against each other in track. If I remember correctly, Kathy approached me at a track meet as we were waiting in line to throw the shot put. We were friends from that instant. Since we went to different schools, we would see each other only when our schools competed in track and basketball. We ended up both going to the same junior high and high school, and that solidified our friendship forever.
Kathy and her family are in town for her daughter's dance competition. Her daughter had her first solo dance competition on Friday afternoon, and I was able to leave work for a while in order to attend. I was so glad to be able to see this special occasion. It feels like just a few years ago that Kathy was pregnant. It didn't even seem possible that her daughter was the beautiful young woman up there on the stage, dancing so gracefully. I cried the whole time.
After her daughter's performance, I was able to give Kathy and her family a proper hello and exchange hugs. Our other friend, Shannon from week 8, was also able to attend. We had a mini-reunion in the hall of the convention center!
After we visited for a while, it was time for Kathy and her family to go settle into their hotel, but I wanted to take her picture before they departed. Technically, I hadn't even asked Kathy if I could take her picture for the project. I just assumed that Kathy would assume that, of course, she would be the person of the day! When you've been friends as long as we have, those sorts of conversations don't even need to be had. Although we never exchanged the actual words, I think we both probably had the conversation in our minds. Now that I'm thinking about it, I still don't think I "asked" her, I think I said something like... "ok, it's time to take your picture for the project."
We got a nice picture with the very first snap, but I continued to take a few more and then snapped a few of Kathy and her family. I did a quick review and although we got a nice picture, it was rather corporate headshot-looking. It wasn't quite what I wanted for her. I then asked Kathy if we could take a few more and I told her that she had to be laughing. It doesn't take much to make Kathy laugh, and as soon as I said the words, we both cracked up! Kathy's family was behind the scenes, also laughing, and they made it easy for me to catch Kathy doing what she does best - laugh!
Kathy and I have known each other for more than half our lives. We're the best of friends, but it took looking through a viewfinder for me to really see my friend for the first time. I mean, I've known all of these things for years, but I was actually seeing it for the first time. I was seeing her. Before me was my friend of 30+ years and I'm realizing that Kathy is always happy! She's always laughing! She's had me laughing the whole time I've known her. Teachers and coaches and people in authority have "shhhhhhed" us for laughing more times than I can count! Through the viewfinder, I could see my childhood friend who is now a beautiful wife and mother. I could see a woman who chooses happiness over stress or anger and if she finds herself in a tense situation, she infuses it with her laughter and you can't help but to feel happy when you're around her. I've known it subconsciously all along, but it wasn't until I was trying to capture her sparkle that I realized Kathy is always full of happiness and laughter and the most beautiful thing about her, is that she's contagious! She spreads it everywhere she goes!
In the viewfinder, I could see both my teenage friend and sometimes co-conspirator, and also the woman who has become loving wife and mother. I could see the woman who set aside her love of sports such as volleyball, basketball, track, and softball, in order to encourage and support her daughter, whose love is dance. I could see the teenage girl who could always make me laugh, and I could see the woman who still continues to do so. Through the viewfinder, I could see my beautiful friend and her beautiful heart.
"My family," Kathy said, is the happiest thing happening in her life right now. When I asked Kathy if she's recently performed an act of kindness, she was a bit slow to answer but her mom, Linda, answered for her. Kathy cared for her grandma (cleaned house and cooked her meals) when her Grandma came home from the hospital and was in the process of transitioning into a care facility. Kathy tried to dismiss this as an act of kindness, saying this is just what you do for family.
I asked Kathy what she would be doing with her life if money were no object and she said that she and her daughter have dreamed of being able to build a school for a community in a country that wasn't able to build one themselves.
Day 189 - Linda
Linda is Kathy's Mom. I headed down for the second day of dance competition and to take a picture of one of Kathy's other family members. Linda was the "volunteer."
Kathy and I were so close growing up that Linda was one more set of motherly eyes looking after me, and my mom was one more set of motherly eyes, keeping any eye out for Kathy. It was pretty difficult for us to ever get into too much trouble, considering we had a network of loving and protective moms who seemed to know every move we made.
I love Linda, because she's Kathy's mom and because she was a loving and caring mom, she was one more woman who was a help to my own mom. Our moms were extensions of one another and it's like they had this secret pact to keep a loving and watchful eye out for one another's children. They were a gang! One mom's turf was uptown, another mom's turf was downtown, another mom's turf was across town. Yep, that's it. They were a gang of loving mothers who were determined to keep us safe.
When I asked Linda about the happiest thing happening in her life, she said, "being with my children and my grandchildren, and my lil' dog, she makes me happy." I asked Linda if she's performed a recent act of kindness and she said that when she visits her mother in her care facility, she also spends time visiting with the other elders who don't have family or friends.
If you've been a subject in this project - thank you for letting me take your picture and share it here. A very special thanks to my two VIP subjects this week, Kathy and Linda. I love you.
Thank you for following along!
Have a big week!