[70/100 Strangers]: Sam


[70/100 Strangers]: Sam

The location where I met this stranger was the EXPO New Mexico Flea Market, the state’s oldest and largest open-air market. Located in Albuquerque at the state fairgrounds, more than 1,300 vendors situate on 25 acres. Though parking is free, the walk-in entrance is $1.00 (.) It runs every Sunday, except during the 10 days of the state fair. Vendors pay $20 for a spot to sell odds and ends, like used toys, shoes, religious statues, books, used furniture, costume jewelry, cowboy boots, tires, dart guns, belts, fresh and dried chile peppers, old tools, old junk and used junk. You find whatever can fit on the back of a pickup truck, in a small rented moving van or on a trailer and that can be hauled out to an asphalt patch.

On a mini-quest to meet and photograph some young people, I met Sam. He is my 70/100 strangers and shares a child with my stranger No.69, Raechel.

Sam stayed behind the organza curtains while I was photographing Raechel. During that time, he watched quietly over an energetic 2 y/o daughter named Everleigh. I observed him dutifully reading her a short book and offering her a sippy cup. Then Sam helped Everleigh climb off the van ledge to orbit around and land in mother’s lap. That’s when he moved past the curtains to the van ledge where he could dangle his feet.

I invited Sam to be photographed for the project, too. He agreed immediately stating that he doesn’t have any recent photographs of them, and would want to print them out.

Sam was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt and sitting in front of the organza rainbow curtains. It’s not often that strangers come with their own colorful perfect backgrounds for a portrait. I wasn’t going to toss out this opportunity.

I asked Sam what he does to help support his young family, other than sell gently used merchandise at the flea market. He told me he picks up odd jobs because he likes the independence of not having to report to a formal workplace. Sam is 23 y/o. Like Raechel, he doesn’t speak Spanish, and he remarked that the Flea Market was a curious place to spend an entire day. We paused in our conversation when a customer came under the shade canopy to flip through some of the books for sale.

During that conversational lull, the adjacent vendor cranked up the volume on his sound system. I remarked that I felt like we were tailgating in the parking lot before a concert. Sam smiled knowingly and we listened for a minute to the music. Then I thanked him, and estimated when to expect the images.

Sam knew I was to send the pictures to Raechel, since she had the email address for my point-of-contact. I never heard back from Raechel. I can only hope that she passed along the pictures so that he could enjoy them.

2 responses to “[70/100 Strangers]: Sam

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