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31 Strangers in 31 Days Photography Project

i have been a long time fan of joy st. claire's photography. i first found her on flickr and have loved her stuff forever. she is also a frequent on the tml photo of the day photos too.

i was reading joy's blog a while ago and read about this really cool project she started. it was all about photographing 31 strangers in 31 days. i thought it was a great idea when i first read about it.....but as the days went by and the photos and stories were blogged, i fell in love with this project! it is quite an amazing thing. it's not just about photographing them...it's about taking the time to connect. learning something new. meet someone you would have never met before.

i am so inspired to do a project like this of my own. i'm thinking winter is the perfect time for this! if you read this and decide to do the same thing in your area, please let me know when it's all completed. i'd love to share it and i'm sure joy would love to read all about it too!

i asked joy to tell a little bit about her project and share some of the photos with us.
you can see her entire blog here http://www.joystclaire.blogspot.com

31 strangers in 31 days project
by joy st. claire

When I was little, I always talked to strangers. Wandering through the neighborhood in search of an adventure or good story, I knew no fear. The world was my oyster! During my expeditions, I became acquainted with many neighbors, & each one had something special to impart. I remember many of those strangers to this day. It was a different time – it was the time of youth! But bit by bit, adults told me not to talk to strangers - & so it began, blinders were put in place.

I am a naturally curious person. I enjoy hearing people’s “stories” & tales. And so, when I saw a friend (Caroline Manrique) doing a project called 31 Strangers in 31 Days, I decided this was something I needed to do, for so many reasons. I had been feeling increasing frustrated with people whizzing by me in the big city of Columbus – heads down texting, listening to iPods, on the phone – all oblivious of the world around. My parents and relatives were “small town”. Small town was instilled in me, even in the city. I knew this 31 Strangers project would not only stretch my photographic/creative boundaries, but also my personal boundaries. And I looked forward to the challenge!

Initially, it was quite intimidating for me to approach a complete stranger and ask to photograph them. I found that women, especially older women were more hesitant. If they agreed, they wanted to be photographed with their heads down or from the side or from the back. I found that men were more than happy to pose! Younger people were more willing than older persons. Through the process of photographing strangers, I gained confidence and really enjoyed connecting with people. I enjoyed taking the time to make eye contact and give my attention to the person in front of me. I found myself smiling as I walked away from each stranger. Most of the stranger portraits were taken in Central Ohio. In the middle of the project, I traveled to Northern Michigan and continued the project on my trip! Through the 31 Strangers in 31 Days project, I have become more open, make eye contact more and seek connections. The project took me to a place in time that was simple and genuine – a time when I always talked to strangers!

Some of my favorite strangers:

Strangers 13 & 14, Darren & Ashley

A father and daughter in town from California for the funeral of Ashley’s husband, a Marine killed in Southern Afghanistan. I later saw her on the news that night as they were covering the funeral.

Stranger 15, Joel

A quick meeting, Joel was jogging through the park as I was walking my dog. He was an instant hit online because of his good looks & shirt that read: COLD, SMOOTH, WILD.

Stranger 16, Matt

I saw Matt at the North Market – there was just something about his looks that I still find intriguing. He looked like someone famous!

Strangers 20 & 21 & 22, PJ, Roger & Joseph

A husband & wife I met in Empire, Michigan (my favorite town & beach in Michigan!). They had the most wonderful little teardrop camper & traveled around the US in it. I decided I wanted a little camper to tour the country with my dog Maggie!

Stranger 25, Michael

I met Michael one evening in Elberta, Michigan while photographing on the pier with a friend. He was probably the stranger I talked with the longest. We were out on the end of the pier jutting out into Lake Michigan and he was fishing for salmon. I wanted to adopt him as a second dad!

And lastly Strangers 30 & 31, Donna & Steve

Donna and Steve were my last strangers. I finished my project where I love to walk each evening, & so it was a perfect place to end the project! I talked with them a while on a beautiful October evening, and recapped the project. They offered suggestions for future stranger projects.

All in all, the Strangers Project was a wonderful journey, one that I might make an annual tradition!

thank you joy for sharing your story with us. it's true...
everyone has a story. we should all take the time to learn it.

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  1. I am so going to make this my winter project!!

  2. I love this idea! I want to tackle a similar project! Thank you, Joy, for creating such an interesting project and thank you, TML, for publicizing it! :)

  3. love this joy! I've been wanting a winter project - wanting to shoot just for myself - a great idea - people connections are the best! thanks for the inspiration joy - xo

  4. Anonymous12/08/2010

    what a need idea!

  5. This is such a great idea!! Unfortunately I'll have to learn Italian better before starting it so I can explain to the strangers I meet here in Italy what I'm actually doing!!!!

  6. This has really inspired me to break out of my perfect portrait box and challenged me to do something completely different. Thanks!

  7. Interesting idea! I don't leave my house everyday though :)

  8. Oh how I love this idea! I am another one who doesn't leave the house everyday but I imagine I could cater this to my lifestyle. :)

  9. This is truly Great! I enjoyed seeing the people, as well as getting a feel of your moments together!

  10. Thanks girls! It really was an incredible project & journey! (And thanks shannon!)

  11. WOW!! I love the photos with the stories. It just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by its cover.

  12. I want to try this now! What a great and creative idea!

  13. What an awesome idea! Inspiring!

  14. What a fantastic project. I would love to tackle something like this but I have no idea how to get over my fear of talking to strangers. How did you initiate the "Can I take your photo" convo?

  15. That is a great project!!

  16. this is a great idea! I think I just might have to give this a try!


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