Stranger #3


Michelle is from a small “hick” town (her words) outside of Austin. She has a younger sister who she basically raised because their father left and their mother had to work. She is on her way to visit family in Germany. This is the first time she’s made the trip to Germany without her sister. We actually talked to a while about photography and technology.

In the end, Michelle got her camera out and took my picture as well. So I think I avoided the creepiness factor on this one.

Comments on this post

  1. Rob said on February 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I really love this project and the images that accompany them. The combination of pictures and their stories is always powerful. They work together to create meaning that one alone could not give. Continue on!

  2. Jim Groom said on February 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I agree entirely with Rob, and your bio here of Michelle adds a whole nother layer to this project.

  3. Alan Levine said on February 9, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Just curious, what is line you use when you approach strangers, holding a camera? “Hi my name is TOm, do you mind if I take your photo and post it on my website?”

    I guess the Nice Boy Southern Drawl helps?

    Whatever the approach, it is impressive! I’m feeling more chicken than dog.

    • Tom said on February 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Alan– I’ve changed the conversation each time and each time it has taken me quite a while to psych myself up.
      #1 – Essentially “I’m taking a photography class and this is an assignment . . . do you mind helping me out?”
      #2 – “Hi, I’m Tom Woodward. *handshake* I’m from Richmond, VA. When I visit places I try to talk to people and take their portrait as part of a photography project. Would you mind?”
      #3 – This was much more organic. We started talking because of the camera and I asked about taking her picture after a while. That’s why I got a very different level of information.

      I still find this very, very hard to do. I had visions of getting a bunch of these at the airport and walking around Austin. In the end, I’d get one and I’d be so psyched that’d I’d declare the day a win and quit while I was ahead.

      I had forgotten I’d done something similar to this at SXSW with Jim and the ill fated Edupunk panel a while back but with video. I did a bunch in a short time but you can see my hands shaking on some of the footage. I was turned down a few times then. I haven’t been turned down yet with the photos. The photos are harder because there seems to be less reason to do it and it’s real life as opposed to the slightly carnival like atmosphere of SXSW.

      Sorry for the over reply, apparently I’ve been thinking about this more than I thought.

      • Rob said on February 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm

        Video is always more threatening than photos. If I am doing some event stuff, I often find that people act really strangely when they know a camera is on them. My favorite is always when people accidentally take video when they think they are taking a picture. Those are priceless moments.

        I think of the three approaches that you mentioned number 2 would probably be the one that I would do. I am pretty bad at not getting to the point when I have a specific purpose for an interaction, so I don’t think that I could do #3.

  4. Jim Groom said on February 9, 2011 at 11:12 am


    I think he threatens his subject. Or just makes a muscle and they cower….

  5. Cali4beach said on February 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    this is great! love the mini biography and the fact you arent the only creeper ,haha O.o