I’m certain that I would have never have approached this lovely subject were it not for my 100 Strangers project.Moments with a stranger give us an opportunity to examine someone at close range. While in person it would be rude of us to stare at someone, with a photograph, we can do that to our hearts’ contentment. That’s what I do when I look at Sheena, my 40/100 Strangers.
On the particular occasion when I met her, I was among two hundred Albuquerque residents and visitors gathered at the gazebo in Old Town to partake of free live music sponsored by the City’s Office of Cultural Services. We were enjoying a local funk band named ‘Merican Slang. It was part of the Memorial Day celebrations happening across the city.
I first noticed this woman with a close cut hair style that was dyed an interesting shade of salmon-strawberry; between red and pink. She was sitting at the periphery upon a concrete bench where there was enough space for my own derriere next to hers. I made my move and sat down.
During a very, very short song break I introduced myself and the 100 Strangers project to her and asked if she would be game to participate. She nodded in the affirmative, and then the band started up again. In the din, she shouted her name into to my ear.
Sheena, 25 years old, is from Virginia. She works at Kirtland Aiforce Base as a police woman. This is her first job after completing military service for the Air Force. She moved to Albuquerque for her job, and she likes it so far; it’s been about one year. Sheena came to the gazebo for the music after discovering the happening in an online events calendar earlier the same morning.
I contemplated our picture taking. Shade trees were around and above us. There was an overcast sky imminent with rain. I decided to pull out my reflector to boost our available light.
While fiddling with the reflector’s bottle cap sleeve, the band started up on a cover of “Kitty,” by the Presidents of the United States. You can google the jocular lyrics; three choice words appear 2/3rds of the way into the song. The song synopsis is that a cat approaches to be petted; the human wants to touch it then gets scratched through his jeans, so his disposition changes towards the cat.
The reflector reminded me of the cat in the song. Starting out I had the intention of it being hand-held by the model. Later, through trial and error, I determined that it was most effective while balanced on my backpack resting on the ground.
Sheena played along with me and we found humor in our parallels with the song lyrics. While I made my photographs of her, she sat in a very poised and graceful manner that revealed comfort in front of the camera. We exchanged emails and continued to enjoy more music.
Right now, she graces the album cover of my 100 Strangers on Flickr. Her portrait reminds me to scrap all preconceived notions about a stranger, make a great photograph with the available light and background, and have fun with the encounter.