Meeting the perfect stranger

April 24, 2012

Landor staff
The camera is a powerful tool that allows you to explore the unknown, capture moments, share stories.

Recently, I was lucky enough to take an environmental portraiture photography class with the very accomplished photographer Alex Fradkin at the International Center of Photography. The class was based on the idea of photographing strangers and using the context of their surroundings to tell a story. Photographing people? Photographing strangers? For many the very idea would make them hightail it in reverse. I promise you I was tempted, but took the challenge and what I found were a number of life changing experiences and relationships that have not only made me a better photographer, but have also transformed the way that I look at the world around me and made clear the importance of trying new things.

In months of typical hibernation, endless hours were spent walking around the various neighborhoods of New York City looking for that perfect stranger and that perfect moment; collaborating with people I had never met before. Every day we walk past thousands of strangers without a thought in the world, but if you take a step back, you’ll appreciate that these are all real people, with real stories and lives that are each interesting in their own way.

The camera is a powerful tool that allows you to explore the unknown, capture moments, share stories, record a little bit of history, and push boundaries to where one might not have gone before. When the shutter is released, a person’s existence is registered in time and place, capturing a moment and an experience. This series of photos allowed me to capture a glimpse into the lives of people I never would have met before, make an exchange, and learn a little bit about who they are while giving a little bit of myself in return.

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With these photographs came experiences that never would have been expected. I met the actress who plays Hester from the famed show Sleep No More, made an appearance in a rap video, spent time with some local independent shop owners, held a complete conversation in two separate languages with a visiting woman from Columbia, watched an illustrator from SVA paint the first sight of spring, learned about the lives of people who live in the underground subway system, and met a very important eye surgeon who every day tries to improve the vital sense of sight. When you put yourself out on a limb, wonderful things happen, things that you would have missed otherwise.

Do something every day that scares you. Get out of your comfort zone. Take a class. Try something new. Meet some strangers. The funny thing is, once you take the picture, you’re technically not strangers anymore.

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Note: Two of the photos are not actually of a stranger. They were warm up shots from the beginning before I got fully comfortable approaching strangers, but they are still keepers.

Category: Identity & design
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