Stranger 04/100 - Remington

I photographed my fourth stranger outside a coffee shop in Libertyville, Ill.

Hansa Coffee, a cool space in a converted mechanic’s garage, has become my go-to place for getting afternoon work done when I need a caffeine jolt and a change of scenery.

Remington and three of his friends were at the table next to mine having the kind of high-energy, high-decibel conversation that churned up memories of being young and carefree. As well as an urge to put on headphones.

Fifteen minutes later, as my wife walked in to join me, I noticed the friends walking out the coffee shop’s open bay doors to have a smoke by the railroad tracks outside, where a Metra train from Chicago was dropping off the evening’s first commuters.

With his bold haircut and cool style, Remington caught my attention, so I walked outside and asked if he’d be game to have his portrait made for the project. He didn’t flinch, and neither did his friend, Bennett, when I recruited him to hold a reflector. Bennett told me he is studying photography at Columbia College and handed me a business card. Remington said he studied there, too — fashion, unsurprisingly. Both are seventeen.

Shameful admission: I had let more than a year pass since I photographed my last stranger, a lull that had been weighing on me recently. Yesterday I grabbed my camera and tagged along with my wife on an afternoon train to the city. While she was off at a workshop, I wandered downtown Chicago looking for the right light, the right background, the right stranger. Overly picky and overly cautious, I watched the sun slip behind the skyscrapers without having made a single portrait. It was depressing.

Today I was determined to restart my project, no matter what. When I approached Remington — Remi for short — the five-o’clock sun was still fairly harsh, so we took a stroll to a nearby red wall with a bit of shade. Remi seemed at ease in front of the camera and was patient with me as I repositioned him a couple times, unhappy with the light. To tell the truth, I felt a little nervous and rushed things as a result. Given a second chance, I would have added a bit more depth of field.

Anyway, they were good sports. Later I checked out Bennett's photography. I wish I had that much talent at seventeen. Keep at it man! No doubt Remi is equally talented at fashion design. Thanks for being part of my project.

It feels good to upload this post. Right now my 100 strangers project is on track to take 100 years. Time to change that.