22 April 2008
"hi, I was wondering, would you mind if I took your picture?"
"um, I'm sort of doing this thing, taking photographs of strangers and I thought maybe I could take your picture?"
"yeah okay. sure."
he starts to roll the sleeve of his shirt down over the tattoo covering his left forearm.
"you want me to cover this thing up?"
"no, not if you don't want to. I like it."
he puts down his cigarette and sort of smiles, shifts uncomfortably in his seat a bit, readjusts his posture. then he sits up real straight and tall, starts in with a stiff little smile and freezes. like he's back in first grade again, posing for the school photographer. I find this ridiculously cute. though not exactly what I want so I keep shooting until he really relaxes. I'm very nervous about the whole thing, I'm fumbling with the camera, setting it all wrong. I am completely flustered. trying to play it cool, though very unsuccessfully.
"so you're trying to get over your fear of strangers?"
"my fear of taking photographs of strangers, actually."
"just so you know, guys will never care if you take their picture. but girls will. girls care more about the way they look."
"hmm. you're probably right about that. thanks."
then he suddenly gets all excited about this thing I'm doing and gestures towards the coffee house where he works. he tells me about all the guys in the shop who'd love to have their picture taken. girls too, he says, but I'm running late. I thank him and say goodbye.
as I walk to the car, I know this will be my next project. I knew it the moment I saw him sitting there, the moment I ran to the car to grab my camera, the moment I opened my mouth to ask his permission, the moment he relaxed in front of the camera and started to forget I was there. as I drive away, I am somewhere between terrified and giddy. because taking photographs of strangers scares me. a lot. and this is how I know I'm headed in the right direction. out of all the possible projects I listed, this one made me the most uncomfortable. and since I'm looking to be stretched in new and spectacular ways, I'm thinking yes. yes, I'm headed in the right direction. I'm feeling all lit up inside. I'm closing my eyes, I'm jumping in.
thank you to everyone who initially offered their two cents worth, thank you kindly. and now I have more questions for you: how would you feel if a stranger approached you on the street and wanted to take your photograph? would you allow it? would you feel weird if they asked your name? how would you like to be approached? how would you like to be asked? please do tell because I'm in this for reals. currently finding great inspiration over at 100 strangers and the thought project. number 28 off the list, done. er, just beginning. 52 weeks of strangers and I've never been more nervous than I am right now.