JOSEPHINE DVORKEN / Familiar Strangers
Strangers generally ignore one another. It is what we are conditioned to do from an early age. I, however, have always been a people watcher. I remember, as a child, being criticized when I was caught staring. I would wonder, “Why is it rude to stare?” People are so fascinating and no matter how much you know about a person there is always more. Being a photographer is the perfect occupation for the nosey child in me.
In 2008 I started walking around town taking pictures of strangers. I have chosen to make portraits within the first few moments I encounter someone. I do my best to give people my full attention as we experience the relationship tip from stranger to acquaintance. The pictures included in this project have been taken in Ridgewood, New Jersey where I live. Some images are of strangers whom I am quite familiar with but have been busily ignoring for years… until I gave myself the assignment of being the town photographer.
When I approach people and ask if I can take a picture I keep an open mind and remind myself to be patient. I ask and wait for an answer. It is a practice in patience that I sorely need. Sometimes, after the most awkward smiley stare I am rewarded with a yes, and I am grateful. There are times when people say no. I have learned to honor it, to be thankful for the answer and move on.
One of my favorite movies is Amelie, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Sometimes when I am following people I think of her. One time I made a little wish that the First National Bank corner would find a perfect person to stand for a picture. A few days later the man in the brown suit showed up. After I took his picture we went for ice cream and he told me about his first failure in life. Buying a gas station.
On good days I feel like Mr. Rogers or Big Bird gleefully walking around the neighborhood. Sometimes I feel like a creepy stalker, so I switch to landscapes or shoot the sky.