[47/100] Abby and Lexie - We were on a family walk in a local park recently to get some outdoor exercise during this period of social distancing and ran across Abby and Lexie spending their (mostly) social-distancing birthdays together. It was Abby's actual 19th birthday, but Lexie's was two days before.
I thought it was funny to stumble across two young ladies wearing birthday hats in a hammock in the middle of the woods, so stopped to ask if I could take a portrait of them for this project. Thanks to both for being such great sports about it!
They come from the same local hometown but did not really know each other well until they were roommates this year at MSU. Now they are best friends and still hang out even thought the university is shut down because of COVID-19.
[46/100] Dave - I met Dave at the Grattan Raceway, where he is the groundskeeper. He told me that when he was young he did odd jobs and corner work for the raceway and, when they were looking to hire someone full time, he pointed out that they'd been happy with his work, so why not give him a shot at it? That was 30 years ago. He and his wife have lived in a camper at the raceway and worked for them ever since.
I met him I was at a karaoke pool party organized by some of my friends. Dave wandered over and had a couple of drinks with us, then asked if it would be ok if he threw his name in the hat for karaoke. Of course it was ok! He treated us to remarkably good renditions of Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday" and The Eagles' "Tequila Sunrise."
I took these photos of him as he was singing. Dave loved them and asked me to send them to him (though he does not have an email address so I had to send them to the raceway). I love his passion for the song and the years of hard work etched on his face.
[45/100] Tom - I met Tom at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven while fishing from the docks with my son. Tom wandered over and chatted with my son about fish and then engaged me in conversation.
I learned that he is a retired PA from Oscoda, Michigan (about where the tip of the thumb would touch the hand if squeezed in). He and his wife, Connie, have been at sea for ten months in a Polish-built Catamaran christened "rPad." They are part of the America's Great Loop Cruiser's Association and have nearly completed the 6000 mile loop - only 150 miles to go!
We talked for awhile and then I wished him best of luck for the remainder of the voyage. They were still at the dock the next morning, however, when we returned to fish, and I asked Tom if I could take a portrait of him on the boat as part of the 100 Strangers project. A photographer himself, he asked more about it and happily agreed. His wife, Connie, gave my son a tour of the boat while we took a handful of portraits.
This is the heart of the project for me - meeting really cool people and getting to know a bit of their story.
[44/100] Lexus - I ran into Lexus tonight downtown. She and a friend were just downtown hanging out and they struck up a conversation with me while I was waiting for family session clients. We turned their hanging out and my waiting into a fun mini photoshoot. This angle caught my eye and I asked her to pose for a 100 Strangers portrait.
[43/100] Roland - I was introduced to Roland by a mutual friend on Drummond Island. Originally from the Detroit area, Roland moved to the Island 13 years ago to assist with an aging parent. In between, Roland was a dentist in Kalamazoo. ￼Roland began making art many years ago, taking wood and cutting multi-piece composites to create beautiful scenes. He called his art "Putz Art." When he moved to Drummond Island, he noticed that scrap metal was available in large quantities - literally lying around in the woods, and he began making and selling metal artwork, expanding his Putz Art media. Last year, Roland realized he could put his precision dental drilling skills to great use working with the beautiful variety of rocks on Drummond. He creates a wide range of art, from whimsical statues (like a Rock-weiler dog) to beautifully polished turtles and frogs - some complete with rock lily pads and copper cattails. If you're on Drummond, stop by and see him - he has a large collection for sale in his yard and you will probably get to watch him working. He also has a Kidz Art area where children can express themselves creatively - he then displays the pictures alongside his own art. ￼Roland has a variety of other original designs for sale (Petoskey stone yoga pants, anyone?) through his website (https://arise.today), on Etsy (www.etsy.com/shop/PutzartShop), or on Amazon (www.amazon.com/handmade/Putzart). Take a look and support a talented local artist!
[42/100] Larry - Larry is the owner of Robinson Scenic Gardens on US-131 in Mancelona. You've probably seen it - he has a giant pink elephant and a purple hippo (as well as many other things) along the road. Larry has been selling cement statuary in this location for 47 years, though he has been making them since he was 13 - that's 66 years, now. He says that his three grandsons help out a lot and one of his grandsons was working in the shop while we were there. They make the molds, cast, and paint the figures on site. If you get a chance, stop in and check it out - it's a fun place to browse!
[41/100] Auttiesh - We stopped by the skate park today to watch for awhile and I found that I could not resist grabbing my camera for a few shots. I struck up a conversation with Auttiesh. He grew up in Grand Rapids and has been skating for 17 years, though he lamented that he only gets out to skate now a time or two a week because he has a wife and family. Auttiesh has a skating apparel company called Gold Coast (he is wearing one of the shirts). Auttiesh agreed to a portrait for the 100 Strangers series
[40/100] Leona - I was headed back to my car at Wilcox Park and saw Leona crossing the street. The vibrant matching blue of her scarf, hat and eyes was striking. I said hello, introduced myself, and commented on her beautiful scarf and hat. She mentioned that had she realized how unseasonably warm it was, she probably would not have worn it. I asked if I could take her photograph and she agreed. Leona has lived in Eastown for 17 years and attends St. Thomas. I gave her my contact information so that she could see this and I could get a copy to her, but she admitted that she would need to have a friend help her with emailing.
[39/100] Judy - Our neighbors had a garage sale and I stopped by to drop off some items and to chat. Judy was browsing the garage sale and her bearing and outfit struck me immediately. She was very friendly and we chatted for a few minutes and then I asked if she minded if I ran home to get my camera for a portrait of her, explaining that I've been dawdling my way through the 100 Strangers project for awhile now. She was more than gracious. Judy is from Georgia, originally, and had the most wonderful Southern drawl. She said that she met her current partner years ago and when he wanted to move back to Michigan, she told him that, "Honey, Southern ladies don't do cold." So they compromised - the live in Michigan during the summer and in Savannah during the winter. As I photographed her, her partner chatted with my neighbors. He commented that Judy "needs another photograph of her like she needs another hole in her head." He then went on to share that she doesn't mention it very often herself, back that she was a former Miss Savannah. We took a handful of images and I may post a few more later, but this one is my favorite because it is contextual, something I look for with these images.
[38/100] Kitty - I met Kitty on Mackinac Island last weekend. We had finished photographing a wedding there and spent some time walking around on Sunday morning and stopped into a cute little coffee shop, the J L Beanery. Kitty was seated at this this table, knitting. I knew immediately that I wanted to photograph her. When I walked by with my coffee, she gave me a bright smile and said hello and we struck up a conversation. We probably chatted for half of an hour and, had I the time, I think I would gladly have talked with her all day long. Kitty was full to overflowing with friendliness, great stories, and humor. Kitty was born and grew up in Missouri (for verification, she correctly pronounced it ending in /u/ sound rather than a long /e/) and now lives in Tennessee. She has been spending her summers on Mackinac Island since she was three weeks old. After she volunteered that, I said that I felt I needed to ask an indelicate question. She chuckled and said, "Well, it seems you're asking how old I am - I'm 86." I don't think she would mind me sharing that. Kitty shared stories of her father rowing in the lake during the summer trips, discussed philosophy and religion (her two areas of advanced study), and bragged about her children who, it seems, are scattered far and wide - geographically, politically, and religiously. She delighted in the differences and said that they all love each other dearly, setting aside all of these things when they are together. Kitty paints, too, and as she gazed out the window at the marina she shared her regret that the lake that day was a bit rough because she would have liked us to see one of her favorite things in the world - the abstract patterns that the brightly colored boats cast upon the lake when it is calm. She has been trying to capture it with a brush for years. Like I said, I could have talked with Kitty all day, but we had a ferry to catch and had to say farewell. I loved meeting her - and I likely would not have made the approach had I not wanted to photograph her for this project. I'm deeply grateful for having met her.
[37/100] Xayvion - I was downtown scouting locations this week, turned a corner, and saw Xayvion sitting on this wall. The lines and tones jumped out at me and I asked him if he would mind if I took a few portraits. Not at all, though his girlfriend expressed some surprise that I wanted to photograph his "ugly mug." :) He fought hard to maintain a straight face as his girlfriend harassed him, and he nearly made it. I liked this one the best of the series.
[36/100] Jesse - I noticed Jesse walking in front of me on a recent evening walk. The staff caught my eye and, soon after, the cloak. I caught up to him at a street corner and struck up a conversation. We shared several blocks' walk while chatting. I found out that he moved to the area a few months ago, returning to Michigan after having been gone for some time, living in various parts of the country and also in Wales for awhile. He is currently apprenticing as a cobbler for the shoe repair shop in our neighborhood. I commented on the staff and he noted that it helps while walking in the snow, but also that the clothing style in general is "just what I do." It's fabulous. When it came time to part ways, I asked if I could take a photograph, briefly explaining the project. He was quite willing and we took a few images before bidding each other good night.
[35/100] Barney - We had a last minute opportunity to take "The North Pole Express" (the Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive) yesterday. It was a fun family trip - an hour train ride, two hours in a Christmas village, and an hour back. Barney was one of the workers manning the locomotive. A reservoir of a tremendous amount of knowledge of steam engines, he explained fascinating details to anyone with a question. For example, the boiler contains 7,000 gallons of water and takes about two days to heat up enough to run the train. Also, in the days when steam locomotives were in use on the railroads, each engine took about 30 men to maintain it at all times. Barney said that he has been working on steam engines for about 30 years, since childhood. He has been with the Pere Marquette 1225 for twelve years. He and his father have four small steam engines that they bring around the country for various shows and uses.
[34/100] Miguel - We went out to Holland, Michigan today to see the ice and enjoy the warming weather. Many others had the same idea. Miguel had braved the at times treacherous ice and had ascended one of the highest crests. I engaged him in a brief conversation, told him about the project, and asked if I could take his photograph. He consented and I took a few shots. I then walked to the other side of the ice hill and realized it offered a better angle, so I took a few more. It allowed us to have a better conversation as well, so I found out that Miguel is from Mexico, is currently working in Detroit, and was visiting the west coast of Michigan for the weekend.
[33/100] Babcock Elvis - As mentioned for #32, "Elvis", we went down to a local lake for a pond hockey tournament. We stopped for a bite to eat. The table nearest the door was populated entirely by guys wearing Elvis costumes, their hockey team (the "Bent Shafts") attire of choice for this year's event. I took a few photographs of a volunteer Elvis and, as we chatted, Babcock Elvis returned. The entire Elvis table immediately clamored for him to take a photograph. We took a variety of images and then he called for his microphone, struck this pose, and I knew I had my photo. To differentiate himself from the other 8 or so other Elvises, he asked to be referred to as "Babcock Elvis."
[32/100] ElvisWe went down to a local lake this weekend for a pond hockey tournament, kind of hockey's version of a Gus Macker basketball event. Freezing, we stopped in to Rose's for a bite to eat and some coffee. The table nearest the door was populated entirely by guys wearing Elvis costumes, their hockey team (the "Bent Shafts") attire of choice for this year's event. I approached the table and introduced myself. They, in return, each introduced themselves as, of course, Elvis. I described the project and asked for a volunteer. This Elvis agreed and we took a series of images. He and the others, however, protested that the best candidate had, appropriately, "left the building." As I finished with this Elvis, the other returned. The entire Elvis table immediately clamored for him to take a photograph, the next in my series.
[31/100] Mike - I was walking near my home and came across Mike sitting on the bumper of this truck, taking a break from construction work. His pose and the context of the truck caught my eye. I introduced myself to Mike, briefly explained the project. I was clearly interrupting break and Mike didn't seem to be a man of many words, so I stepped back, took a few shots, thanked him and went on my way.
[30/100] Bob - I was driving recently and passed Bob with this sign. I drove a couple of more miles, then turned around and went back to introduce myself to Bob. He explained that he was part of a dispersed flashmob of people with this message. As I was talking to him, a woman drove by and held up her own sign. I love the message!
[29/100] Ron - We headed out to Grand Haven for the day to check out the art fair and to spend some time at the beach. Ron was fishing at the end of the pier. He reported that, unfortunately, he had lost three steelhead to snapped leaders so far, on three different poles, despite new line and strong leaders. I commiserated with the bad luck but he denied that luck had much to do with it, repeatedly saying that while those three weren't meant to be, there were fish out there. I asked if I could take his photograph and he did not seem to mind at all. I hope Ron's dinner plate looks like his tattoo tonight.
[28/100] Gary - Our neighborhood hosts several street fairs throughout the summer months and are always fun and full of interesting people. I met Gary at the "Bizarre Bazaar" street fair, working his jewelry booth. Originally from Sacramento, CA, Gary got his start making and selling jewelry touring around the country as a Deadhead. He was a little skeptical at first, expressing concern that close-up photography of his jewelry could allow copies to be made, but I assured him that I was only interested in his portrait and let him see the photographs I was taking. Gary said that he probably isn't going to be around the Grand Rapids area much longer, indicating that he did not like to stay in one place long and was becoming bored with Grand Rapids. He longs to head back West, perhaps to Oregon where, patting his belly, the abundance of hiking trails could assist with better health.
[27/100] Craig - I was vacationing in Chicago with my family. We were headed out for the day and, as we passed through the lobby, Craig caught my eye. I loved the lines of the architecture and the light coming in from camera right. I approached and introduced myself, explained the project I was doing and he agreed to sit for a couple of shots. Unfortunately, with a toddler in tow, I did not have the opportunity to talk longer with and learn more about Craig.
[26/100] David - I was driving to a photo shoot one morning and passed Brother's Tires, an awesomely bright blue building with red lettering (see the other photograph in my photostream for the exterior shot(s)). I've noticed this building in the past but had never seen anyone there and have always been passing through to somewhere without time to check it out. It's been on my "would like to shoot it somehow/someday" list for awhile. We got about a foot of snow overnight last night and I noticed a man snowblowing the driveway. I didn't have time to stop on my way to the studio but on the way home I saw that he was still there and the garage door was still open. I stopped and introduced myself. David said that the shop belonged to his friend. I asked if I could photograph him and, amused, he agreed. David was great, bearing with me for several shots. He asked if he could have the website address so he can see them. After scavenging for a pen for several minutes I ran back to the van to get one. As I exited the small office and took in a different angle of the shop, I noticed this wall of tires. With my mind turning on the way to the van, I switched lenses to a 17-35mm and after writing down the URL asked if he would bear with me for one more shot. He didn't mind and I ended up capturing this, my favorite of the series.
[25/100] Pamela - My son and I headed down to check out some of the entries and watch the last minute set up the night before Grand Rapids Art Prize 2012. We came across Pamela putting the finishing touches on her entry, a participation piece inspired by "Water for Elephants." Pamela told me that she was struck by how under-appreciated the art of the circus performers and circus artists is and noted that she came face to face with how difficult it could be while she was painting this entry. She was very gracious about my request, despite her obvious rushing to get it completely set up before tomorrow, she even willingly returned to take several more images when the lights came on. She gave me her card and asked that I send her copies of the images, which I will, along with the link to this set.
[24/100] Dan - My family headed down to Fennville to pick apples today (well, so we thought - no apples to be had!). On the way we needed to stop for cash and pulled in to this Shell station. As I got out of the van, Dan and Tom pulled in driving what I think is a 1922 LaFayette (he told me it was "A '22" when I asked, but perhaps he assumed that I knew enough about cars to fill in the rest. I didn't. Google helped out,here.) I chatted with Dan for awhile and found out that he had driven the car from Lansing - a formidable trip for this old car, I assume. With a child in the car seat, I didn't have much time to chat but I want to thank Dan for pausing to let me take this photo.
[23/100] Ashley - We passed Ashley on the boardwalk and exchanged brief small talk about the luck or lack of luck he was experiencing. Just as we were finishing lamenting his lack of luck, he hooked this monster! I asked if I could photography him with his catch and, with a chuckle, he agreed.
[22/100] Suzann - My son and I headed to downtown Grand Rapids early one morning for the Celebration on the Grand. Or so we thought - it turns out it didn't start until later in the day. So, instead, we tooled around downtown checking out the sights and taking the occasional photograph. I stopped in (as I cannot resist doing) to MadCap for a cup of the most delicious coffee to be found around here. Suzann was seated at the window and I couldn't help but take advantage of the setting and light to ask for a stranger portrait. She readily agreed. While I waited for my coffee, though, two women sat down outside the window and interrupted the shot I had in mind. I considered, then asked politely if they would mind standing to the side for a moment. They did not - it turns out they were students of a local art college and fully supported my efforts. Thanks to Suzann, the two women who moved, and the blessed patience of my 2-year-old in the stroller, all of whom helped make this shot possible! Normally I carry business cards so people can find this and see the photos I took. I told her that, reached to my shoulder for the camera strap zipper (Black Rapid Strap - if you're looking to buy one, let me know, it's for sale), only to remember that I changed over to a new camera strap (Luma Labs Cinch strap) with no pocket. I wrote the Flickr address on a napkin and gave it to her, to which she responded, "Fancy!" I'm quite sure that it was intended with a light touch of sarcasm, which I appreciated. So, Suzann, if you DO end up checking this out, thanks for bearing with me! Suzann later contacted me and let me know that she has a nine-year-old daughter. Suzann recently decided to start a journal "chronicling my observations about her and what makes her so magnificent" that she will give to her daughter when she graduates high school. Suzann was writing the first entry in this photograph. I sent her copies of the images, so now she has photographs and a great story to go with the journal. Awesome.
[21/100] Albert - See #20. Albert's friend, Dorothy, talked him into participating in my photo project after I had approached her. I'm glad she did, because I love the salt and pepper beard, clear eyes and engagement with the lens. Thanks, Albert!
[20/100] Dorothy - I took my son to the annual Hollyhock Parade this year and noticed Dorothy decked out in bright colors and demonstrating her patriotism with both hands. I found it easier to approach a stranger in this context, perhaps because there is a sense of intentional public display when someone dresses up to celebrate a holiday and watch a parade. Whatever the reason, Dorothy is an awesome, gregarious lady who readily agreed and then talked her friend (#21 in the series) into having a portrait taken as well
[19/100] Dave - While camping, we ran into Dave fishing (with minimal success). Four nearly identical, beautiful hounds (one is out of the frame) wandered around and befriended visitors. Dave agreed to let me take a few frames while he was fishing. I like the way his dogs appear to be eagerly anticipating his success.
[18/100] Steve - The AWESOME new hand-made local pasta shop, The Local Epicurean, ran a Living Social deal awhile back. Out for a walk in this unseasonably warm and delightful weather, I stopped in to redeem my coupon. I liked the composition of the counter and the curator, so asked if I could take a photograph.
[17/100] Doug - I initially passed Doug on the other side of the street and started thinking about if and how to frame a shot of him working. I crossed and as I approached him he looked up and engaged me about the lens and camera, clearly with a better-than-average knowledge base. Turns out he used to be a professional studio photographer. He started painting backdrops to save the studio money and fell in love with the process. He is now a professional faux-finish painter and is in the process of painting this knee wall to look like granite. We chatted for a while and I took a few before shots of the wall for him.
[16/100] - Jane I walk by The Pretend Store all of the time and the proprietor often waves. My son and I stopped in to look around and he had a blast playing with all of the toys. A great little store, chock-full of dress-up costumes, toys, and hundreds of little surprises tucked away all over. Jane, the owner, loves children and kept offering my year-old son all kinds of fun toys with textures and noise-making capacity. He was delighted.
[15/100] Tiffany - Tiffany had set up a table and these political signs in front of the local post office. It was a pretty chilly day but when I commented on that she said, "Political action doesn't care about the weather." I'd not seen a Hitler mustache on Obama before, and had heard of neither the Glass-Steagall Act nor the North American Water and Power Alliance. Now I have. While I don't agree with her politics I do have respect for her standing out there on a cold day making a statement. She asserted that she was not photogenic but allowed the shots anyway; I disagree with her assertion.
[14/100] Esther - I originally noticed Esther because she was carrying a coffee while pulling a toddler in a Radio Flyer filled with fallen maple leaves, leading another child by the hand. The scene jumped out at me so I approached, introduced myself and explained the project. She was gracious and had no problem with photographs. The kids, however, were a little shyer and the shots weren't what I envisioned. Also, because it turned out she was their nanny and not their mother, I feel less comfortable posting images with the kids in them anyway. Fortunately, she gave me permission for a variety of shots and this series turned out well.
[13/100] Jeff - I was waiting at a crosswalk outside of Eastown Antiques when Jeff commented on my camera (probably more on the lens (Nikon 70-200 f/2.8). We chatted for several minutes about cameras and photography and then I described the 100 Strangers project and asked if I could take his picture. He consented but immediately appeared somewhat self-conscious of being in front of the camera. I took several shots and he grinned, giving me this moment.
[12/100] Sierra - I've long been intrigued by this shop so I stopped in while out for a walk. Sierra was very nice and her dog loved on my son. The store emptied of other shoppers and I asked Sierra if she would mind if I took some photographs of her for the project. Chock full of fun items, it made for an interesting context within which to place her and the dog.
[11/100] "88" - What's not to like? The hat, the beard, the necklaces, the sweatshirt, the grin? When I asked to take his photograph, citing all of the above as reasons he said, "That's pure 88!" - the moniker he uses because "88" is the symbol for "money" in Japan (Chinese symbol for fortune and good luck, actually, but close enough!) and, he confided (shhhh...) is also the year he graduated high school. He gave me several poses ending with his "full 88 smile."
[10/100] Jeremy - As I passed, Jeremy stepped out of a local bar to take a smoke break while watching the Tigers game. The vibrance of the orange shirt and of the band flyers jumped out at me. Jeremy's a nice guy and had no problem at all with the shots.
[9/100] Ron - I walk past this store frequently and have on several occasions seen Ron standing in the doorway and said hello as I passed. I've always liked the "feel" of the store exterior - the bright red trim, arched doorways, etc. and with Ron leaning in the doorway as such I have several times thought to myself that it would make a great image. After starting the 100 Strangers project I started looking for Ron. Tonight he was there and I introduced myself and the project. He agreed to the portrait, more readily, perhaps, because he didn't even need to move.
[8/100] Vanessa - I stopped in to Rowster's Coffee (best coffee in Grand Rapids) for a pound of fresh roasted El Salvadorian whole bean. I passed Vanessa on the way in, noticed the light and the scene, and it started the wheels turning. My camera was, fortunately, in the car and after I approached her and received permission, pulled it out and took a few shots. Vanessa was great - very patient as I snapped a couple of dozen frames.
[7/100] Tim - Tim was basically standing in the engine. That's pretty cool. I found Tim to be exceptionally interesting. He engaged me in a conversation about a photography entry for Art Prize 2011 and queried me about my goals for the 100 Strangers project, something that surprised me and forced me to examine my aim more closely. That's a cool stranger encounter.
[6/100] Kevin - The half-raised door, rocking chair and car had already caught my eye as I was approaching and, when Kevin started to roll a bike out of the darkness, the photo formed itself. He, somewhat amused, agreed to a few shots.
[5/100] Jeff - While out for a walk with my 11 month old son, I passed this Fall scene with the wheelbarrow, rake, and shovel sitting idle. Clearly someone had merely paused for lunch, so I circled around the block a few times until Jeff returned to work. He didn't mind at all taking a moment to pose for a photograph.
[4/100] Mary - I noticed Mary as I was pulling out of the grocery store. The bright colors of her clothing stood out from the general grayness of the surroundings and, of course, her hair is fantastic! I quickly found a parking spot and walked back to talk with her. She agreed to a portrait, though, "If I miss my bus we're going to have trouble." I assured her that if for some reason that happened I would happily give her a ride.
[3/100] Seth - I passed Seth while exploring Art Prize 2011 in Grand Rapids, MI. He was passing out flyers for his performance art (www.sethwalkerpoetry.com). I loved what he was wearing and asked if I could take a few shots. He readily agreed. I took a few images as he was handing out the flyers and then asked him to hold still while I dragged the shutter a bit to help separate him from the background.
[2/100] Ryan - These shadows caught my eye as I was driving and I stopped to take a few shots. I thought it would make an interesting context for a portrait so I waited around for about 15 minutes until Ryan happened by and I asked him to step in for a portrait. I felt a little more prepared this time with a "spiel" about what I was doing so it felt a little less awkward.
[1 of 100] Harold -My family met for dinner at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana. While we were waiting my eye kept drifting to this man, Harold, waiting for his wife. I introduced myself and he agreed to a portrait.