Recently I came across the 100 Strangers Project on Flickr. It’s a group described as “a learning group intended for those wishing to improve both their social and technical skills needed for taking portraits of strangers and telling their stories … The challenge: Take at least 100 photographs of 100 people you don’t know. Approach anyone or a group of people, ask for permission to both take a photo of them and to post it to this group. Get to know your stranger/s. Who are they? What is their life like?”
Pretty great project, no? As half of what gets posted on We Are Cardiff is portrait photography, I thought this was a great idea for people interested in photography to get some portraits under their belts. I found a lovely set of 100 Strangers photographs posted by a local photographer who goes by the name of Just Ard (or Wayne, presumably to his mum). His photographs – along with descriptions – are posted below, for your viewing and reading pleasure, along with a Q&A with him at the end. Helia
Gerry is the first person in my 100 Strangers Project.
I met Gerry in Costa Coffee in Caerphilly, Wales. I was sitting alone and he asked if the seat opposite was free. He was pleased to sit by the window. He had popped in for a coffee whilst his wife was shopping. He was quite chatty, and we had a good conversation about pubs in the valleys and different real ales. A TV cabling engineer during his working life, he is retired now. I asked if he would mind if I took a few shots and explained the project, and he was pleased to oblige. I didn’t want to take him away from his coffee so I took the shots in situ.
Peter is the second person in my 100 Strangers Project. I was walking along the Hayes in Cardiff, looking around me for my first shot of the day. I noticed Peter sitting on a bench with his little dog by him. I thought he would make a good subject for my strangers project. I approached him and asked if I could take his photo. He replied with “You thought to yourself he’s a good character to take a photo of, did you?” I had to admit yes, and that he stood out among the people that were walking around us. We both nodded. “Go on then,” he said.
I ran off a few shots, then he asked me if I would like to have a few shots with Queenie, his dog in. I took a few shots of them both. When I finished, I gave Peter my card and in return Peter gave me one of his, explaining he was there on business, and deals in Militaria, so as a thank you to him, I have put a link to his site here.
Priya is the third person in my 100 Strangers Project. I was walking along Working Street in Cardiff, not long after taking a shot of my second Stranger, when Priya smiled across at me, so I went towards him. I have seen Priya in Cardiff before in the same area. He is a monk and uses his time to collect for charitable causes. He opened the conversation with “Have I spoken with you before?” I replied “Yes”. “Ah, I remember,” he said “You said to me, “You are a wonderful Monk, and I would love to donate.” I said “Nah, definitely the wrong person.” We chatted for a while, then I asked him if he would allow me to take his photo. I explained the project and he was very interested. I took a few shots, thanked him, then left him to continue with his work.
Thank you Priya, it was a pleasure talking with you, and always is watching you approach people and put a smile on their faces.
Philip is the fourth person in my 100 Strangers Project. I first saw Philip as he walked out of St John’s Churchyard Gardens in the centre of Cardiff, to the area outside the Indoor Market carrying a film camera on a tripod. He was with two lovely young women, one of whom was carrying a large microphone. They set up their camera, which Philip was operating, and began encouraging people to talk on camera. I took a few shots of this and left them to carry on whilst I went on a wander for a while.
When I walked back around they had moved along and were setting up again, and interviewed a few people and I got a couple more shots. When it went quiet I approached them and asked what they were filming for. They explained they were doing Vox Pops about who people thought would win the Rugby 6 Nations Competition. They asked me who I thought would win. Fancy asking a Welshman! I replied “Italy…No Chance”, and laughed, then said “England…Not, Ireland”, and they stopped me and pleaded that I do that on camera. I agreed and, at the time the camera was on me forgot what I had actually said, but said something along those lines, and obviously finishing with Wales of course.
When I finished, I asked them what they were filming for and they are in Cardiff University studying for Masters Degrees in Journalism. It was really fun watching them work to encourage people to get in front of the camera. I decided to ask Philip if he would allow me to take his photo, as he seemed the wildest of the three of them. They were all bubbly, but, sorry girls it was his smile. I explained to them about the 100 Strangers, and it was at that point that I found out that Philip is from Uganda.
The photos started with a sort of pose, nothing to do with me, but what Philip adopted to a fun face then to the standard portrait. I decided to use this shot, the fun shot, as I think it shows how I saw Philip. I hope you can see his character through this.
Irmak is the fifth person in my 100 Strangers Project. I first saw the lovely Irmak taking photos of St John’s Church in the centre of Cardiff. With her was Penache. I took a couple of shots of her taking photos. They saw me and spoke to each other and smiled. They went around the church and Irmak continued taking photos. I was wandering in the same direction.
As they walked outside the Indoor Market, still taking photos I approached Irmak and explained about the 100 Strangers Project and asked if I could take her photo. She hadn’t heard of Flickr, but Penache had. I think Irmak and Penache to a degree had trouble understanding my Welsh accent, and they spoke between themselves, but I couldn’t work out what language they were speaking in. Irmak agreed to have her photo taken but Penache didn’t want to.
I took some shots and showed them to Irmak. She asked me to take some more, which I did and on reviewing them, asked that I use the one you see. I asked where she was from and it was Turkey. A town called Bursa, which is south of Istanbul. She was on holiday and staying with Penache and returning home on Monday.
Q&A with Wayne Lovatt, aka Just Ard
Q. What’s your Cardiff connection?
A. I was born and raised in Fairwater, Cardiff, hence my affiliation to the city. I moved to Pontypridd in my early twenties and have lived there now for over 30 years. Apart from a three year period, I’ve always worked in Cardiff, so have stayed familiar with how it has changed over the years. If we go back about 45 years ago, I know the streets in the centre of Cardiff had become slums, with no bathrooms and outside toilets, whole communities were moved from Newtown (what is now part of the centre of Cardiff), and the Docks area, to the new estates of Pentrebane, Llanederyn and Pentwyn. Moving all the communities out to the new estates on the outskirts of Cardiff ripped the centre apart. Over many years since, the centre has changed, and is now just a commercial centre, without the character of what it once was. The main commercial centre has grown outwards. You have to go outside it to see anything like the Old Cardiff, areas such as Splott, Roath, Grangetown, Riverside, everything that skirts the centre.
Q. Tell us about your background in photography.
A. I first studied photography in school, many years ago now, where I learned to develop and process my own photographs. Over the years other interests came along, though I did keep a little interest in photography. Then about two years ago a work colleague and friend, who was really enjoying his photography and using Flickr spurred my interest. From that point I started to find focus. In June 2012 I decided to try some new technology and invested in a Nikon D7000. Wow what an upgrade. My main focus through 2012 was flowers, which was the same in 2013. Then, came street photography.
Q. Street photography? Go on…
A. I was on Holiday with my wife in Falmouth September 2013. We found ourselves on the streets of Falmouth where there were lots of characters, a great photographic opportunity. On returning home, I took a look at others work on Flickr who shoot people on the street. I really liked the work of Leanne Boulton, a photographer from Glasgow, and contacted her for advice, with which she was so helpful. We still keep in contact. A big influence to me was Thomas Leuthard, a Swiss photographer.
Why do I shoot street photography? It gives such a buzz. In a way it takes over and you have to have your fix. I
suppose some people would call my work “Street Portraiture”, but like with any labels, you restrict people to limits. You have to use the element of surprise. If someone sees you they automatically, without even thinking change either their stance, expression, look away or smile when all you want is to catch them naturally in their
If we look back through time we see old photographs of the rich and famous. Before that drawings and paintings of
Kings, Queens and nobility, but so little is known about the “man in the street”. If you look at those old photos, the best ones are not the Lord sitting posing, but the farrier hard at work, covered in dirt and sweat, with the steam billowing from the horseshoe as he plunges it into the water, or the miners and their families on a charabanc outing. Ordinary people doing ordinary everyday things. This genre of photography also gives me time to study
how people behave in different environments, and also to see what is around me and not just to look.
Q. Any advice for budding street photographers out there?
A. If I have any advice for others, the first would be to get a Flickr account. Things have changed on Flickr over the last year, but whichever way you look at it, you get 1 Terabyte of FREE space to store your photos. That is one hell of a lot of photos. Check out the “Street” groups on flickr, you will be amazed at how people interpret the genre, and the terrific levels of skill and art there is. Then put that into your head and get out on the streets and shoot away. The only way you will progress is to shoot. Don’t worry about the length of the lens. If you feel nervous use a longer lens until you feel more comfortable, I did, I started with a Sigma 70- 200mm zoom, then onto a Sigma 105mm, but now on nearly every shot use my Nikon 85mm, because that is what suits me. Remember you take these shots to please one person: yourself.
To see more of Just Ard’s work, visit his website, Tumblr, Flickr or his publications.