Conversations: Records and Stimuli: Brief encounters

In this workshop task you are asked to first record a conversation with a stranger – this may be done through images, written text, audio – transcription etc. You should then use this record as a starting point for a small series of 3 – 7 images.

1. any person whom one does not know
2. a person who is new to a particular locality, from another region, town, etc
3. a guest or visitor
4. (foll by to) a person who is unfamiliar (with) or new (to) something: he is no stranger to computers.
5. (Law) law a person who is neither party nor privy to a transaction

What came to mind with this was the cliche representation of ‘humanity’ from Brandon Stanton’s ongoing project ‘Human’s of New York’.

‘Today’s Family of Man needs no Steichen to curate it, for anyone with a camera now has the ability to produce his or her own vectors of humanity. And those with such discursive power are rarely compelled to consider the humans framed, manipulated, and extorted in their productions of sentimentality, the signals of their violent inhumanity.’

Stanton’s project shows the publics trust for the photographs word of truth. We accept the stories and portrayals as an overall identity for their brief meetings and conversations. We all have the ability to have a conversation with a stranger, and reflect the conversation through an image; but we don’t do it because we are perhaps anxious in doing so. The project is therapeutic to the masses because it reflects that anxiety and presents an image with text that expresses that everyone is willing to open up their life to a stranger, showing the humanity through an image. The issue with the project is the minimal dialogue and time; these brief encounters do not define people, they instead reflect their 5minute conversation.



Seth Hancock (
Similarly, Hancock presents his brief conversations with strangers. Unlike Stanton, Hancock allows the individual to briefly disconnect from the perhaps intimidating gaze of the camera, and reflect thoughts through writing instead. We can trust an individuals handwriting more than a written reflection on a social media platform.

The Swap (
As mentioned in a previous blog post, the swap project connects strangers through an online photography project. It makes two photographers equally vulnerable in a portrait collaboration. They both photograph each other, they both converse, they both represent. These images reflect their brief encounters in a more collaborative way. They reflect more conversation without these words that the photographers mentioned above use.
Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 13.50.30

Collaboration is key in reflecting a conversation.

Richard Renaldi and Jamie Diamond encourage their subjects to become collaborators in their projects ‘Touching Strangers’ (Renaldi) and ‘Constructed Family Portraits’ (Diamond). Renaldi makes subjects active by getting them to engage with one another. They touch in the image and in some cases look as if they’ve known each other for longer than the process.

Diamond also scouts the streets for strangers to create a performance for the camera. He gets strangers to construct a family portrait scene to trick the viewer into believing they are a family. Both projects reflect brief encounters, but in a more collaborative way.


To reflect a real moment, the collaboration is the most important tool to help the viewer trust your photography, and allow the subject (or participant) comfortable.


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