In case you are growing weary of the colorful buoyancy offered by hot air balloons, today I am switching it up with a portrait of a real live human. Allow me to introduce you to Josh, who is 86/100 of my Strangers.
Now in the latter stage of my 100 Strangers project, I’ve come to accept that if I don’t glean a je ne sais quoi–an elusive quality of substance–from a stranger, no matter how beautiful, interesting, or captivating he or she appears on the surface, I don’t ask to take the photograph. We all formulate internal criteria for selecting our strangers; evidently, this is one of mine.
Here is how I came to meet today’s subject. I was shopping for 1” thick, open-celled, lightweight foam in a local shop that sells upholstery fabrics, trimmings, and foams for restyling furniture. At the counter, I was offered immediate assistance from Josh. It was his unsolicited banter that screened him as a personality I could approach for a stranger portrait.
After Josh retrieved a large rolled up piece of upholstery foam for me from the warehouse area out back, I asked if he would agree to be photographed for my project. He agreed immediately saying that his wife, whom he called an “amateur photographer,” would get a kick out of him being a participant.
Once Josh stepped out from behind the counter, I quickly scanned his immediate area, both for the best available lighting and for a backdrop that would offer background interest. We only had to rotate his body by 90 degrees to the counter to include behind him a wall hung with tanned leather hides for upholstery.
The other requests I made of him were to tip up the brim of his well-worn Cleveland Indians baseball cap and slightly lower down his chin. The interior lighting was provided by indirect light through the shop entrance door glass and the overhead fluorescent lamps.
After making my few shots, Josh returned behind his counter. We continued to speak for a few additional minutes after I collected his contact information. I learned that the shop we were in was his family’s business. Josh is 35 years old, married and with both a son and a daughter; one is 10 years old, the other is 8 years old. Josh was born in and has always lived in Albuquerque. He likes fishing, hunting and hiking, and takes great pleasure in playing softball and baseball with his children.
“I’m raising a family in this crazy world,” Josh said. “It’s hard to shelter my kids from daily local news of crime, violence and rage. I don’t want them unaware of what’s beyond the front door. I think, if they are old enough to want to talk about it or ask about it, I’ll give them answers. ‘Cuz that’s life.”
Parting words of advice that he wanted to share: “Live life to the fullest.”