Saturday, August 27, 2011
Today, I saw the portrait I have been wanting to take.
Today, I made a u-turn.
I parked my car about 100 yards from my target. As he approached, he took his headphones off, stuck out his hand, and simply said: “hey, my name is Michael.”
But let me give you the back story. After clicking around on Flickr, I found the idea that I wanted to pursue. The problem was this idea would take me well out of my comfort zone. I love the creative process of photography but at heart, I am an introvert. I don’t apologize for that. It is just who I am. Photography and your personality don’t necessarily go hand in hand but I think photographers with an outgoing personality tend to make better portrait photographers. With this millstone around my neck, I decided to go out on a limb and pursue a project called “100 Strangers.” As the title indicates, it involves me taking pictures of 100 strangers. Not only taking pictures, but digging into who they are and telling their story in both words and portrait photography. This has been rolling around in my head for months and I never could get started on that first stranger. I was further motivated by a song I was constantly hearing on the radio. It is a song by Matthew West called “My Own Little World.” Part of the lyrics are:
Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
and put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me
This spoke to me. My world is not about me. There are stories all around me. Stories that I could tell.
With this in mind, I was driving around town and I saw this homeless man with the coolest “ZZ Top-like” beard. He would often wave. I have seen him with signs that say: “I like beer and mustard on my fries.” Problem is, I never had my camera...until today.
Meet Michael Cheek, originally from South Dakota but through a lifetime of railroads, buses, carnivals, and a world without walls, he now lives in the woods in Winston-Salem, NC. I talked to Mike for about 20 minutes. He was with his wife, Missy. I asked Mike: “what’s your story? Everyone has a story.” He said he “got tired of working for the man.” He now lives in the woods with Missy and their three dogs.
He once worked in the carnival where he says you never get paid. He was stabbed in the back (literally) by the carnival owner’s son. He has spent time in prison for the theft of $9,000. I think he said this was in Texas. When he got out, his buddies still had his split of the money.
Mike is a very likable person and a talker. Mike is also not afraid of who he is. He is an alcoholic. He has to drink everyday. I told him I wouldn’t buy him beer but I did hand him a couple of dollars and asked him what I could do for him. He asked if I could get him a bag of dog food and leave it at the Cleaner World where he would pick it up later. I did.
Good to meet you Mike. Stay safe, brother.
This picture is #1 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at http://www.100strangers.com