Won’t You Be My Stranger?

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Photographer Joshua Langlais spends his days asking random people: “Would you be interested in being today’s stranger?” His project, I ? Strangers, documents his daily encounters with people he’s never met. He snaps a photo and gives details on the stranger’s name, age, location, and how the interaction went. Initially the project was just slated for a year, but Langlais enjoyed it so much, he’s kept it up ever since September 2008. He remembers his first rejection, his first willing participant, and has made countless friends along the way. Amy Sly at Slice interviewed the Langlais about the process and the revelations he’s had since starting it. Here are some excerpts:

What are people’s most common response to your asking to photograph them?

If they want to be part of it they usually ask how long it will take. Or where I want to take the picture. Or what I am going to do with the photos. It is rare that a person I photograph engages in a real conversation with me. It is usually later, after they have seen the website, looked at their photos, and read the accompanying story, that they realize I am not the disgusting Internet marauder that they assumed I was.

Finding and photographing a new person each and every day must be challenging and there must be days you’d rather stay at home; when those days strike, what keeps you going?

Those days have become more difficult since I did not stop at the one year anniversary. Doing this for one year was my goal. I met that goal, but I couldn’t stop. I am afraid to stop….I have the “golden ticket” that allows me to go up to anyone on the street any time I feel inspired and ask them to talk to me. I can’t help but think that the day I stop will be the day I was supposed to meet a patron, or a cool Brooklyn magazine art director or the guy that cries as he shares his story with me.

What do you hope people take away from seeing this series of portraits?

This is the million dollar question. I think that people and our relationships with each other are the only thing that matters….I’d like to think that if everyone in the world slowed down and didn’t work themselves to the bone (for riches or survival) and spent some of that time building relationships, then we would start seeing the elimination of many problems. I’d like people to see these portraits and take with them the desire to learn more about the strangers around them.

Source: Slice(interview not available online)

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