30 Strangers. PDX

After I did 30 Days 30 Strangers in NYC, I knew someday I would want to do the same thing in other cities. It was invigorating to talk to so many New Yorkers and I felt a greater connection to my city after doing it. I was so proud of how many of our “busy, pushy, rude” citizens agreed to be photographed. I had an 87% success rate of people I asked who said yes.

A few years later and here I am, Portland, Baby. I have been spending a lot of time here this year and have been missing my friends and have missed seeing the diversity of faces and people in New York City.  I am super excited to start my new challenge of 30 Strangers in Portland and get to know this place that celebrates Weird.

Guidelines
1. 30 strangers. A stranger is someone I have never met and was not set up to meet thru someone I know.
2. I have to ask their permission. They’ll be asked to sign a model release.
3. Ask each person the same questions:

  1. Where are we
  2. Name
  3. Profession
  4. Age
  5. Nationality / Origin
  6. Favorite thing about Portland
  7. Least favorite thing about Portland
  8. What does success look like?
  9. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

4. Perfection is the death of completion. To this end I will shoot/blog on the same day. Additional details, edits or links may be added later. This is a project in motion.

DAY 1

I packed up my bike with my questions, my camera and a few bits of gear and started riding to find inspiration for day one. I wanted to start with something iconic and as the sun was rapidly setting over the hills, I pedaled over to the Burnside Bridge. I had pictured setting up the shot with the iconic White Stag Sign in the photo. I didn’t like the images I was getting and the sun was going down so I quickly reframed and waited for someone to pass by.

A moment later, friends, Rin and a shirtless Dead Letter, passed me on the sidewalk. I loved their look, and when I asked if they would let me photograph them, they were immediately game and wanted to help welcome me to Portland. They were on their way to kill time looking at art before meeting friends, so this was a great substitute.

I loved talking with them. They were a great start to this project and I could have spent hours talking to them. Strangers 1 and 2.

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Meet “Rin” and “Dead Letter”. I loved talking to these two!

 

 

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Best piece of advice you’ve been given: “Shut the F%&$ up it’s not about you.” 

1. Rin at the Burnside Bridge.

Name: Lorin, “Rin” to his friends, Lorin to his clients
Profession: Marriage and Family Therapist, mainly serving the LGBT community.
Age: 35
Nationality / Origin: German/French/Swiss/Native American

What’s your favorite thing about Portland? It gives you lots of permission to be weird. You can be a weirdo in all these crazy ways. Like for me being queer, and being non-monogamous, and all that shit– started in Portland. Getting introduced to the burning man culture and all these other things, started in Portland for me. It gave me permission to not be normal in a lot of ways.

What does normal mean?
It means something different in Portland, but for me it meant fitting in with the people around me in Arizona, which meant a lot of financial success a lot of fitting into the norms of being married the norms of  having a house and dogs and kids and all these things.

Would you say that their definition of success didn’t match your own so you felt out of place? Yeah, and I didn’t know what else is out there.

What is your least favorite thing about Portland
That you find out over time that there’s permission to be weird but it’s all the same kind of weirdness. There are Norms within the weirdness -which is kind of uncomfortable thing. So it’s like- the acceptance of being in anyway traditional is real low out here. If
that makes sense. The liberal people haven’t really learned how to help each other or support each other and there’s no helping people that are not considered to be kind of like neo-liberal and queer and you know whatever thing that people feel politically connected to it, they kind of get polarized against the opposite thing.

What does success look like?
When I was not feeling successful, success to me felt like, having a house, being financially able do to the things I wanted to do, and now that I feel more successful I think it’s more about connecting to wherever I am at the moment, being with whoever I’m with and experiencing what I’m experiencing and that feels more successful to me.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“I need to shut the fuck up because it’s not about me.”

Do you remember who said it to you?
Yeah, actually, it was my practicum supervisor and she is amazing. Basically as a therapist, especially you’re always trying to get in there and make people happy. So you’re trying to make people happy and they’re not, they’re sad, but therapy is more effective when you can be sad with the person. So it takes a long time to learn to kind of put yourself on a shelf and not try and change their mood, but just be with them and whatever they’re feeling and where they’re at. and I think that’s good advice for friendship or whatever is -that most of life is not about you and once you accept that it is easier to handle your distress over it.

When you say it’s not about you, do you think the pull to wanting to have a solution to a problem is your ego going, I’ve got the solution and I’m right? 

Yes, always. And it’s not just for therapists, we’re all trying to force other people’s experience into our narrative and it doesn’t work, most of the time.

 

 

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Dead Letter “I have a cantankerous old man yelling at me from the end of my life.”

2. Dead Letter at the Burnside Bridge.

Name: Dead Letter
Age: 40
Profession: Building Slave for Creative Space and Industrial Arts Factory
Nationality / Origin: I’m a Jew- Descendant from the Vilna Goan.

What’s your favorite thing about Portland?
The Bridges, everybody loves the bridges. And passive aggressive-ism.

What’s your least favorite thing about Portland?
Portland is filled with amazing, caring, leftist liberals who have not yet flipped over to actually helping each other, rather than fighting against something.

What does success look like?
For every person success is moving up a quantum where you have more, time, money, and energy than you did in the quantum before.

Best Piece of Advice?
Two things. 1. Embrace all information flow. (People come at you with something; you say, yeah absolutely instead of nu, unh.) and 2. Everything takes 5 times longer than you think it will.

Do you remember who said it to you?
I did.

So that’s not really advice, is it, since it comes from yourself?
Mmmhmm. I spent years crafting it so I could have one pin within which to frame all of the rest of the stuff I was trying to say.

And was there anybody else that influenced… that contributed- I get what you’re saying, there is the zeitgeist, where suddenly everyone the kind of same…Was there anyone else that influenced that, where the advice was similar.

I’ve met a lot of other me. And they have other versions of the thing I have that I’m trying to work on in my PHD work and all, very similar. And many a times they go, “I INVENTED THIS!” and I believe, probably not. I didn’t invent it. The best one can argue is that one made a localized compression. A localized way of saying it that fit now and was crisp. And so, I do agree that everyone is saying the same thing. The phrasing is something I worked on to help me note that everyone was saying the same thing. There is an on-going embedded conversation all over the left and all over the right. Which is, How do you talk to people so they do stuff? And to answer that one has to ask, How does a group of people learn stuff? So “embrace all information flow” was the first prescriptive that says, if you want to meddle, take what’s there without resisting it.

I wanted to offer a clarification on something you were hearing. Men, specifically, have an impulse to meddle. And the sitting with and allowing, isn’t so much the way you were phrasing it as-Is it ego? It’s not so much that you think you have the right solution, it’s that you can’t just let it be without fucking with it. That everything needs to be changed!

Right, like something is wrong with it, something is inherently wrong here.

And the phrase that goes with it, is “To change the world, change oneself. Cause this is what you have access to. So in therapy, to change them, change me. Sitting here. Change my demeanor, change my behavior in the room. Cause then they’ll change. Versus, telling them to change, inhibits their own motor control, their agency.

I am on the other hand here to meddle.

I have a cantankerous old man yelling at me from the end of my life. And so if I don’t do it, then my angry old man yells at me. I live in what’s called past future perfect tense. In the future how will you feel if this happens now. How will you feel about this later.

….KatarinaKojic.com

Day out in Dumbo

Spent a fun afternoon earlier this fall with Julie Lazarus, of Elezar handbags and accessories and Katerina Melnikova to show off a few beauties from Elezar’s line.

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©KatarinaKojic-IMG_8030

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On the set of The Bookclub Unbound photoshoot

Day 24 of Love-Love of family support

I met Forrest on 44th street just before 9th ave. I just loved the way he looked against the graffiti on the garage door. I photographed him and then asked a few questions.

Name: Forrest

Age: 28

Profession: Starving Artist (http://forrestgerke.com) / Bookkeeper

Nationality / Origin: American Irish & German

What is love? Love is… I don’t know that’s none of my business. (laughs) I’m still trying to figure that one out.

What about in a bigger sense, how do you define love. How do you know when you love somebody, How do you know when love is coming your way: I guess it’s when you’re willing to give something to somebody without necessarily expecting anything in return and when doing that is enough to make you happy, with that agreement, I guess that can kind of define it.

What is a time when you had that experience, either you’ve given or received knowing that nothing is expected: With my family, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a lot closer with my parents and I went thru a kind of difficult medical situation recently and was unsure of how to handle it and where to go and my parents were just so giving and didn’t ask anything, didn’t expect anything from me so that was something that really kind of made our relationship-well it was good at that point anyway, but it kind of propelled it even further. So that was good.

What’s your favorite thing about your family, now: My parents are pretty unconventional, in a lot of ways, they were kind of hippies,  but they always keep an open mind and always try, rather than finding what’s different about people, they try to find the commonalities and I try to learn from that and use that idea in my own life.

Did they encourage you towards becoming an artist: Yeah, it was something that I always wanted to do and they were always supportive. They were pretty up front with me that it wasn’t going to be the easiest choice to make and it wouldn’t be that lucrative but they knew that it was something that was important to me and so they were always supportive.

…I work a day job, 9-5 and my evenings and weekends I try to spend as much time working on art and music. So I’m always busy, I’m never bored. I always have plenty to do.

Forrest; starving artist / bookkeeper

Forrest; starving artist / bookkeeper

When did you decide to become an artist: Age 4

What did that mean to you: I started drawing pictures… I would draw for several hours a day when I was a little kid and so it was just something I enjoyed doing so much, I couldn’t imagine not doing that every day. So I guess when I was really young I knew that that’s what I loved to do.

Was there a particular kind of art that you wanted to be doing in art school: I’ve always liked to draw people and portraits, so I focussed on figure drawings and figure painting and so I think, art school exposed me to different materials and different ways of doing things and ideas, but I still kind of stuck with working with people and portraits.

What do you like about working with people: I like that if you draw a person it can go in two directions. you can either do something really specific about a time and a place and get something that’s sort of unique about one individual or if you do something that’s more like figure drawing or painting, you can kind of divorce it of any kind of time and context so you can communicate something that’s a little more universal and emotional and I like that.

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Day 23 of Love- Giving

I walked decidedly toward the Grace Church to set up a shot and find strangers to photograph for Day 23. The Grace Church has always been a source of great nostalgia for me as it represents my early days of living and walking around New York, it was a few blocks from my first apartment on Bleecker and Broadway. At the time I was reading “The Alienist,” by Caleb Carr. The book took place circa 1896 and the main characters had their headquarters at 808 Broadway, next door to the Grace Church. So it was mentioned often. The book features Theodore Roosevelt, police commissioner of NYC at the time, and a team of crime investigators who use fingerprinting and psychology, cutting edge at the time, to solve a series of murders that take place across the city. The streets and now landmarks of New York City are described in great detail, the first murder takes place on an unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. I was fascinated. My roommate had a book on his shelf called “New York, Then and Now”, which featured early photographs from 1875 to 1925 contrasted with 1976. I walked the streets of New York in 1997 with the book in tow, checking the photos and marveling at what changed and what didn’t. The Grace Church is still there and 808 Broadway now houses the New York Costumes shop.

When I reached the Church, Liad and Emelia were sitting on the steps, already nicely framed by the large doors. As I was asking to take their photo, two other friends popped up. They were all visiting from Israel and thought it a little funny to be photographed in front of a Church, but agreed to the artistic coincidence.

Name: Yaniv / Liad / Emelia / Secret Rabbi
Age: 28 / 27 / 29 / ?
Profession: Student of Politics / Student of Econ / Import Manager / It’s a secret
Relationship to each other: Friends, just met, used to date
Nationality/Origin: Israeli

How / where / when did you meet: Thru mutual friends, (then after a few laughs) we (Yaniv and Emelia) used to date, and Emelia and Liad just met.

What does love mean? Love is… The Sky / Giving, the meaning of Judaism is giving / Beautiful, Understanding / Giving, but not material stuff, giving without consequences, not in order to get something back, get happy by giving.

The secret Rabbi, works for a secret agency and has to stay “off the grid” so I promised not to show his face.

Yaniv, Liad, Emelia and the Secret Rabbi in front of the Grace Church.

Yaniv, Liad, Emelia and the Secret Rabbi in front of the Grace Church.

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Day 22 of Love- Love of Commitment

Name: Daniel
Age: 67
Profession: Security Analyst
Nationality / Origin: Irish American

Status: Married 47 years

What is your favorite thing about your wife: She is very caring, but has a hard time showing it. She used to be shy and naïve and now she thinks she’s strong and somewhat independent. She is not flexible. She thinks she’s helping herself and doesn’t see anything I do.

Why is she important to you: “…you make a commitment…”

What does love mean to you? Love is… “Finding the right partner.”

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Daniel in Downtown Brooklyn.

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He makes sure that terrorists don’t photograph his building. (above right)

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Day 21 of Love- Love of coincidence

I met up with Leslie and Rikki in Bryant Park. In two days they would be boarding the Queen Mary II on their way to London and a few weeks later flying to Istanbul. A few things will get checked off their bucket list, they said.

Leslie and Rikki stop in NYC before boarding the Queen Mary 2 to London and then on to Istanbul.

Leslie and Rikki in Bryant Park, a huge square dancing party is taking place behind them, they weren’t really into it.

Name: Leslie / Rikki
Age: 67 / 54

Profession: Retired Educator / Retired Customer Service Director for Air Canada, now a part-time care aid in a hospital dementia facility.

Nationality / Origin: Canadian from the northern Climes, Eastern/Western Viking, aka Scandinavian, some Eastern Russian / Born in Germany.

What is your Relationship to each other: Good friends

How did you meet each other:
Rikki: “Boy that’s a story. In a little aerobics studio in Sechelt, British Columbia when I was moving there to finish building a house and went to a little aerobics class and I signed my name in… and Leslie can take the story over from here, because she is the one who read my name.”

Leslie: “I had just lost my best friend, whose name was Rikki, that week– within 3 days.
I thought I’d never have a Rikki in my life again, and in the door she came. I was taking the attendance and her name was Rikki. And she came from exactly the same place in BC that my friend had been living. And my best friend’s brother’s name was Harold and this lady’s last name was Harold. And it became a crazy coincidence that we really don’t yet get. That was 1992.

What is your favorite thing about Leslie: “Oh, she is so… generous spirit, generosity, non-judgmental and totally accepting of people and also a very interesting person to talk to, very interesting. Always stimulating and always ready to get going and do things. I mean this big trip we’ve got planned there aren’t a lot of people who can enjoy or want to go away that long and don’t feel that they have to be attached to their families but can really, you know have that adventurous streak. And STILL be very nurturing and family oriented at the same time.”

What is your favorite thing about Rikki: “Oh well… Rikki is an extremely hard-working woman, it so impresses me. She never ever takes the easy way out. Most generous, most tolerant. Tolerant in a good way not meaning “I’m putting up with you” but really tolerant in her assessment of people and always looks for the good side. And there’s many, many more things, but I don’t want to upstage this girl.”

I really love it when Rikki… “I really love it when she’s at aerobics and I can get to talk to her, because she takes too much time off sometimes, because she’s working. I just want her there every day… but she’s not, she’s still working and I’m not.”

I really love it when Leslie… “Can come for a coffee, we go to Starbucks, for an hour or whatever time we have in the day and we can have a really great gab, a great conversation in that time.”

Why is Rikki important to you: “She constitutes a sort of thread of continuity thru that period that I met her and I don’t have a lot of friends from that period anymore, I’ve lost quite a few of them, so it’s continuity I think, and it’s not having to explain myself. I don’t have to fill in all the background. I love to talk, I talk too much, and it’s a really good thing not to have to say everything when you’re with someone.”

Why is Leslie important to you: “Because even if I don’t see her everyday, she’s just such a solid personality and such a good friend that I know she’s there and accepts me and is a good sounding board and the confidence I’ve given her, I know only stays with her.”

What does love mean to you Leslie? Love is… “A quality of mind that indicates caring and as I’ve observed this in NY, because it does come to mind here, I’m finding that people, even if they’re rough, to have a very, very deep courtesy. Like a caring——courtesy is of the heart, and I really see it in this city, despite a lot of grittiness and other things that are a little foreign to me, and I really appreciate that. I think it’s far more important than having good manners, to have courtesy.”

What does love mean to you Rikki? “Genuine respect for all life. And it doesn’t have to be extraordinarily demonstrative, it’s just acknowledging other living beings and things and caring for them in your own certain way, in your own little realm that you can nurture one another.”

How did your trip come about?
(Rikki) “Leslie talked about her great travels, and I’ve been wanting to go to Turkey and she said, that sounds great. This was planned over a year ago. So we started with the Turkey trip and then Leslie said what about the Cunard Queen Mary from New York to London, and I said, why not… And then why not a few days in New York, one night, two nights, now three nights.” (Leslie) “Then we can stay in London, with my Daughter in South Hampton and it just kept going and going and going. It’s actually a fairly ambitious trip for one haul.”

Bon Voyage, Leslie and Rikki!

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