Guest contributor, Jim Darling.
For nearly two years, Jim photographed more than 100 strangers across the United States. These portraits and people helped him rediscover his passion for photography, and we were inspired too.
This short series of images and the stories behind them started in May of 2008 in Washington, DC, when I picked up a camera again after nearly 20 years as a graphic designer. After being laid off from what would end up being one of my last jobs in print design, and in search of a new creative outlet, I rediscovered my interest in photography through street portraiture and a project I found on Flickr.com.
From May 2008 to March 2010 I met and photographed (more than) 100 strangers from DC to New York; and Colorado to the Carolinas. These portraits and people helped me rediscover my passion for photography, and launch my new career path.
Over the course of the project and beyond its completion, I managed to stay in touch with many of the subjects and even became friends with a few of them. In 2013 I came up with the idea of reconnecting with them for another photo — but this time in their homes. The concept and challenge was that the new space was the “stranger”, and I had to compose a compelling photograph in a space I’d never been. There’s a level of trust that exists when someone agrees to have their portrait taken by a complete stranger. Here, inside their home, and many years later, the level of intimacy and trust was raised. By sharing the original photo with the new one it not only shows the changes in the subject but also my growth as a photographer from long-time hobbyist and student to new professional.
Number 1, Katie
I met Katie the day after my 40th birthday. She was managing a funky little housewares shop in DC’s lively U Street Corridor. My initial intention was only to photograph the colorful items on display but when I asked permission and the salesperson sent over the manager for me to talk to, I immediately turned my attention and camera to Katie. She was gracious and friendly – and as it turned out, a former model – so she quickly obliged. Five years later she was the first of my “Revisited” subjects and the photos from that shoot remain some of my all-time favorites.
Number 2, Brooke & Chelsea
Sisters Brooke & Chelsea are a special story, really. Their original portrait (July 2008) became one of my most viewed images and is the one image I credit for getting the project noticed. For 5 years we got together on the anniversary of our meeting for new portraits. A tradition that once took me as far away as Brooklyn just to catch up to them. The newest portrait was taken in the house they shared in Baltimore in July 2013.
Number 3, John
John was a guy that I’d see in my neighborhood all the time. We’d ride the bus together, see each other at the local deli, and often exchange a casual nod that said; Oh yeah I’ve seen you before. I always wanted to photograph John but for some reason never got up the nerve. Until one night at a DC art gallery in 2009, he walked in with a mutual friend and that was what broke the ice. We saw each other a lot over the next few years until he moved to a new neighborhood. I visited John and his wife and two young children in their new home in February of 2014.
Number 4, Stephen
My first meeting with Stephen, in March 2009, produced one of my favorite portraits to this day. We stayed in touch through that summer and he was even able to see his portrait displayed at a large local art festival. The second time we met was October 2nd of this year — six and a half years after the first portrait, and 2 days before I left DC for Colorado. Since I first had the idea for the follow-up portraits, Stephen was high on my list of hopeful contributors. My e-mail to him about the new project went un-answered for a long time. But after he turned up in my Linked-In list of connections and I reached out again we were to finally able connect and schedule our shoot. (And I take back every negative thing I’ve ever said about Linked-In).
In photography, and life in general, I’m fascinated with personal connections and relationships, and the changes in people over the course of time. The camera is my favorite tool for allowing me to experience these moments and tell their stories.
Jim and his wife Amy (both native New Yorkers) arrived in Colorado on October 12th after a combined 36 years in Washington, DC. They have come to be closer to their families, escape the humidity, and hopefully find new jobs. They are living in Lafayette for now.
Check out Jim on social media:
Instagram: @mrdarling; Twitter: @jimdarlingphoto