100 Strangers | A Street Portraiture Project

#1 | Guy | Edgbaston, Birmingham | 28.05.2020

I first came across the 100 Strangers project back in 2014 or 2015 on Flickr. The idea is a simple one: to photograph strangers on the street, with their permission, and to build your portrait photography skills and confidence along the way. When I first discovered the project I wanted to try it too, but I didn’t think I was good enough to call myself a photographer. I also didn’t have the confidence to approach people to ask for permission to capture their portrait. Back then I was still hoping for and planning on an academic career, and photography was just a hobby.

Life happened and I eventually started filming and photographing weddings. Weddings involve a fair amount of capturing strangers, but they are a mix of posed portraits and candid photography or footage. Before the pandemic I was starting to build my portrait photography work outside of weddings, but since the physical distancing restrictions came in I have had to put all my work projects on hold. Out for a walk earlier this week without my music and headphones, I remembered the 100 strangers project and thought about how it would work in the current climate whilst I am unable to work on my other projects.

I almost always take my camera with me when I go for a walk, and I walk a lot. Especially at the moment with the gym and pool closed. The only trouble is that whereas the city centre is usually full of people to photograph, with the pubs and shops closed it is very quiet. The backstreets and suburbs are busier, but since late March people cross the road to give each other space when they encounter one another. Between that, and people having earphones in listening to music, or eyes occupied with their phones, it’s hard to find potential subjects.

Last night I took my camera with me for my usual loop of the neighbourhood and met Guy as we were turning a corner in opposite directions. Smartly dressed and with a warm smile, I made a snap decision and asked him if he would be happy for me to capture his portrait. He kindly agreed, and so now the project is officially underway.

As the project develops I would like to be able to ask each subject their first name and to find out a little bit about them, without being nosy. I am inspired by Iain Blake’s 100 Strangers series and love that he doesn’t just snap and run, but rather stops to ask a few questions to get a little bit of his subjects’ stories. I also like how he often scouts a location and then waits for someone to walk by. That might be something to try once the city centre is busier.

A note to the people who kindly pose for me

The photos on this page are lower resolution for the web. Please get in touch with me so that I can send you a higher resolution copy of your portrait.