52 Strangers Project
Sometime last year I heard about a photography project called 100 Strangers. The idea is to photography 100 complete strangers. But you can’t just take a photo, you have to actually interact with that person and learn something about them. The project is designed to improve both social and technical skills. I was intrigued.
As a photographer, I always want to improve my technical skills. But I had reason to want to improve my social skills as well. Most people don’t know that I have had terrible social anxiety for years. Talking to strangers, going places alone, meeting new people are all things that I struggle with. But as a photographer, those are the very things that I need to do to be successful.
So I thought about and tried to envision how this would work. I ran scenarios over and over in my mind of how I would approach strangers and ask to take photos. I’ll admit, just thinking about it was terrifying and I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I made up my mind that this year I would focus on being the very best version of myself that I could be. And I think the best version of me could have less social anxiety. So here we go!
I’m calling my version of this project 52 Strangers. My goal is to photograph someone new every week for a year. Wish me luck.
Stanger #1 is Marc Swafford. My husband and I were looking for a place to eat lunch and came across a street musician playing guitar and singing. The first thing that I noticed about Marc was that he was an incredible musician. And then I noticed that he was playing the guitar with only one arm! We stopped and listened for a while and when he took a break, I asked if I could photograph him.
I asked where he learned to play and he began to share his story. Marc lost his right arm when he was younger, but he refused to let that slow him down. His dad played guitar and I asked if that’s who taught him to play. He shared a familiar story of butting heads with his dad when he was a teenager. He wasn’t interested in learning from his dad. He grew up quickly and left home to find his way. He taught himself to play guitar with one arm. And now he travels up and down the west coast, playing and singing.
We stood and listened for a while longer and then said our goodbyes. Thanks Marc, for being my Stranger #1.
Be sure to check back next week for Stranger #2.