The 100 Strangers project is a learning group housed on the internet site Flickr.com. The group is intended for those wishing to improve both their social and technical skills needed for taking portraits of strangers and telling their stories. The goal is to photograph 100 Strangers, but not by sneaking around a corner and shooting a candid photograph. Instead we are to talk with the person, learn a bit about them and ask their permission to take their portrait as part of the project.
As a landscape and aerial photographer, very little of my work involves people. I do like to chat, and I often get into conversations with people questioning the craft of kite aerial photography for example. But much of the time, especially my non-aerial work, I spend by myself, alone in the woods with a camera. I’ve never considered myself a street photographer and I am shy about pointing the camera at strangers. I also could benefit from practice in directing and positioning people to optimize the composition but I lack experience and consequently I avoid event and wedding photography like the plague. In an attempt to overcome this handicap I have joined the “100 Strangers” group on Flickr. For more information go yourself and take a look at the images of photographers participating in the 100 Strangers Group at www.flickr.com/groups/100strangers
Stranger 1/100 – Eileen
Maplelawn Gardens is a heritage garden on Richmond Road in Ottawa near the Keg Manor Restaurant. It is two stone throws from my house. I walked into the gardens this afternoon looking for fall flower images but conscious of the fact that last night I had discovered and joined the “100 Strangers Group” on Flickr and I had already walked to the post office and back and bypassed one terrific opportunity to make my first “ask”. I had been chatting with a Rogers Cable employee attired in his pole climbing gear and I hadn’t summoned up the nerve to ask for a photo. Maybe next time…
As I entered Maplelawn Gardens I hadn’t even started taking photographs when Eileen approached me and introduced herself as one of the volunteer gardeners at the site. Being a gardener myself we got into a lengthy discussion about plants and flowers, lawn grubs and such. Our talk progressed to community matters such as the anticipation of a 20+ storey building adjacent to the gardens, fortunately on the north side. And Eileen informed me that a nearby retirement residence apparently charges a premium for units facing the gardens (although they also face the Ottawa River which is another reason in our city for charging a premium rent in high-rise housing). After about 20 minutes of chatting it suddenly dawned on me that this was my ideal chance for a portrait of someone whom I only just met. Eileen had no qualms about my taking her photograph amongst the fruits of her labours.
This picture is #1 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page.