I started today’s photo walk with a vague feeling that meeting another male stranger would be good for my project – especially if it was a more “mature” gentleman. Like most of my experiences with preconceived notions, you can see that it didn’t turn out that way. I was politely declined by a gentleman I thought would make an interesting subject (“I’m really not interested in having my photo taken”) and then after being declined by a photogenic younger man in downtown Toronto (“I really don’t like having my photo out there on the internet”) I proceeded to walk to a camera shop to seek some advice on where to get some prints made.
On my way back to my bicycle (I’m still hanging in there on the bike until it dips below freezing) I saw an interesting background idea but there were no subjects at hand that seemed to pique my interest. I began to orient my thinking to the notion that I would return home with no additions to my project and accept that it would be ok. I’d had a nice bit of exercise and an enjoyable downtown stroll.
Of course, that’s when I saw her. She was standing on the corner of Dundas and Yonge in the heart of downtown Toronto and appeared to be waiting for someone. She definitely wasn’t a man, she definitely wasn’t in the “mature” category I had envisioned, and I didn’t have a pre-selected background in mind. Her attractive face and nice winter outfit, however, had me back in “project mode” in a heartbeat. I’m afraid I startled her a bit as her head was turned and she didn’t seen me approach until I was right there (note for the future) so I apologized for the startle. An open response to my request was followed a friendly handshake and “Of course I’ll help out. I like photography too.” Meet Jianne.
The Christmas season has launched in Toronto even though it’s a month away and a quick scan of Yonge/Dundas Square gave me the idea of using a sculpture of a bear made out of lights as a background. I explained the concept and Jianne agreed it might work nicely. She was waiting for her girlfriend and we would be just a few steps away so she could keep an eye out. I posed her a few feet in front of the bear sculpture to make sure the lights would bloom into out-of-focus circles which might even suggest snowflakes.
Jianne asked what I needed her to do and moved her hair out of the way because I’d said I thought her hat and scarf framed her face nicely. I said I’d prefer to have her hair forward a bit to be part of the photo. I’m often a bit self-conscious in “directing” subjects and especially if they have trouble understanding what I mean about straightening a collar or moving their hair or hat angle a bit. Occasionally I will ask permission to make the adjustment, saying “I’m not trying to be overly-personal here but I think this will really add to the photo.” I said my main request was that she look straight into my lens which she did.
Smile vs. no smile is still an issue for me and while I admire many of the no smile portraits in our group, when I ask natural smilers to not smile I often feel the results look more forced than the smile. I explained it would be good to try a couple with a more “reflective” look and this is the result. Frankly, I’m really happy with both photos but I decided to go with the “reflective” pose for this one.
Jianne’s girlfriend arrived just as we were exchanging contact information and I was getting to learn a bit more about her. Her friend said “Oh, is this like Humans of Toronto?” I said it’s much like that but it’s on Flickr and it’s called 100 Strangers. Jianne is 22 and grew up in Toronto. She has a university degree in Psychology and is now back in school at the Ontario College of Art and Design where she is working on a degree in Graphic Design. “I guess you could say I’m a perennial student” she joked. When I asked about her career goals she said “I’d like to be the Art Director for a major magazine.” I hope her dream comes true.
I didn’t want to delay Jianne and her friend from their lunch plans but in our brief time together I came away with the impression that she is very much a comfortable “people person” (which fits with her Psychology degree) and a creative person (which fits with her being a photographer and doing a degree in Graphic Design). I think she is also a trusting person as evidenced by her ready willingness to allow this impromptu meeting and photo shoot.
Thank you Jianne for participating in 100 Strangers. You are #671 in Round 7 of my project. I hope you like the photo.
Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by the other photographers in our group at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page.