100 Strangers, 1/100: Ansel

I am not a social butterfly. I do not frequently befriend strangers. If given a choice of going to a huge party full of people I don’t know and staying home to read a book, I would usually choose the book.

But if I want to be really good at photographing people, I have to get past my natural reluctance to approach those I don’t know. The 100 Strangers project on Flickr seems like a perfect way to jump far outside my comfort zone and see how it changes me.

I began my project last Sunday. I was participating in a photo walk at the train station, and everyone had gone off to photograph at their own whim. I decided to find my first stranger. I kept thinking to myself, “some people will say no, that’s okay, if you don’t ask you won’t get their photos anyway.” I went to the newsstand and decided to find someone who looked like they were leisurely browsing so I wouldn’t annoy anyone in a hurry. (I am not a fan of street activists who try to get passersby to sign their petitions, specifically because they always try and stop me when I’m clearly hurrying somewhere.)

That’s how I met my first stranger. When I explained my project and asked if I could photograph her, she said sure and joked that she wished she’d been looking at The New Yorker or something impressive. We chatted a bit and I asked her for her first name, as I wanted to be able to attach a name to a face. She told me her name was Ansel. Yes, after Ansel Adams. I’m taking that as a fortunate sign.

For more information on the 100 Strangers project, check out the Flickr group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/100strangers, or go to http://www.100strangers.com.

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