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The Kindness of Strangers

When I started into photography full time nearly five years ago, i was prepared to be surprised. Turns out, not sufficiently prepared. Surely, free from the distractions of my other more traditional careers, the work would flourish.  While that may be true, the meaning of flourish and the meaning of the work are both completely different than anticipated.

The biggest rewards have not been the hoped for acceptance or recognition that the work has received.  It has been the people, mostly strangers, that have been in the work.

MarcellusThe hardest part of many of my projects has been obtaining participants.  The great abyss includes concerns about privacy, lack of trust of photographers and the photograph, confusion about my purpose and plain old fear. Sadly, the biggest barrier is the contemporary inability we all have to respond to any requests that are not urgent. We are all so busy, busy, busy.  I could get rich if I could monetize the instances of people telling me "I want to do it. Have been meaning to get back to you." Traveled to the other corner of Ohio earlier this week and attempted to contact two people who had expressed interest in participating in my Lustron Stories project. Neither one responded to emails or phone calls. Did they change their minds? Perhaps. Most likely they just did not get around to responding. 

This post is not just me whining about how hard it is to do what I do. it is about the other side of the coin. What happens when people do participate. 

This started with Precious Objects when I found myself photographing complete strangers. While we may debate the depth of a Facebook friend, when I hear from my two brothers on Long Island, Trevis and Marcellus, my day is better, my life is richer.  Same thing happens when I talk to Leo or Muriel's daughters about their dad and mom.

This phenomenon escalated with Lustron Stories. As in Precious Objects I found myself with new friends - people who were genuinely interested in what I was doing as I am with them. Added to that, some of these folks insisted on giving me gifts. I talked about the Thomas Kinkade plate that Richard gave me in an earlier post. Recently I received this beautiful barometer from Bob (who happens to be an original owner of his Lustron.) Bob was showing me around and pulled this right off the wall.

Added to the gifts, people in Lustron Stories and my new project with present and former teachers and students at the Music Settlement, Held Notes, have bought my books. Those of you who know me understand that I am a shameless promoter of the books. However, when I go into a stranger's home to do a photograph, it is not with the purpose of selling a book. The first time it happened, I was a bit stunned.  Last week when Renee ordered both The Album Project and Precious Objects Renee on the porch - her blue LustronI was just as pleasantly surprised as the first time. What is happening is more than a book sale. It is an ad hoc community of people joined by the work.

Who knew?

Blanche Dubois has nothing on me……..

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