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Stranger No. 23/100

This picture is #23 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at


After a successful trip to the Summer Palace (stranger-wise), I was convinced that tourist spots were a gold mine. The next day I went to Gong Wang Fu (or Prince Gong's Palace) hoping to find more interesting strangers. While the museum itself was quite interesting, I came up short on the stranger front.


Not to be discouraged, we pressed onwards to Hou Hai. It was early for the party district, but plenty of people were still walking around, enjoying the lake. Nearly ready to head out, I was browsing through some trinkets and noticed stranger 23 walk past. I immediately turned around and asked if I could take her picture.


To my surprise she agreed right away! Only for me to realize that she thought I wanted her to take my picture for me. I explained that I was actually after her portrait, but she was quick to say no.


At this point, it wasn't clear to me if something was getting lost due to the language barrier, so I asked if she spoke English. Fortunately, she said yes, so I was able to elaborate on The Project, indicating how many portraits I had already taken. Then in what seemed to be a complete 180, she agreed to a photo even before I was done with my explanation. She was carrying a DSLR, so perhaps she was an understanding fellow enthusiast.


Meanwhile, her boyfriend stood silently by her side throughout the exchange. After taking a single photo, she explained what was going on to him in German. I showed them the photo and she was quite pleased with it. But I only got the one shot, as they (he) seemed keen to move on.


Even after all the stranger photos, I was surprised to realize that it felt like it was my first encounter all over again. I completely forgot to ask for her name. It didn't even occur to me that she might want a copy. And I only squeezed off the one frame. Fortunately, my hands weren't shaking this time and it turned out to be a keeper.


Then again, this was the shortest amount of time between seeing a stranger and asking for a photograph. So even though it felt like I had regressed in some respects, it was clear to me that I've still made some progress with the approach!

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Taken on September 18, 2011