Stranger 06/100 – Tessa

I photographed my sixth stranger at my usual café.

Hansa Coffee Roasters was teeming with a late-morning rush, and Tessa was behind the counter churning out iced coffees and machiattos. I was nursing my second cup with my laptop open and headphones on, tuned into the weekly webinar for Project 52, a yearlong photography course I recently joined. Our first assignment is to photograph a stranger. Two birds, one stone.

Being a regular, I had seen Tessa before, but our conversations had been short. “I’ll have a cortado, please.” “That’ll be $3.50.” I figured she still qualified as a stranger. So I waited for the caffeine crowd to die down then made my approach.

Tess said yes without a second thought. She explained that her brother, a cinematographer and photographer, had liberated her of any shyness in front of a lens. Nearby was a baby blue wall next to a window with soft light, and I thought her auburn hair and striped shirt would contrast nicely.

I decided to make a different portrait for each project, both using a silver reflector. Tess seemed totally at ease and it shows in her expression. The shallow depth of field really focuses attention on her beautiful eyes. For the second shot, below, I went for something more fun. There are books mounted like shelves on the coffee shop’s walls, and I asked Tess to position herself beneath one of the stacks as though she were a model practicing her posture. At one point I asked her to glance up, and I swear she started to levitate the books with her mind.

Caffeine is a powerful thing.