Adde Adesokan – Triptychs of Strangers
Street photography is about the moment and sometimes doing portraits felt to me as some sort of backdoor to a satisfying day of street photography. It’s easy and repeatable, at least the way I was doing it. I was shooting street for about five months when this guy asked me to join him for a so called photo walk. I didn’t really know what that was or what to expect, but I was curious enough to participate.
After a few hours of walking around, I had about ten portraits on my camera. This was a very decisive moment in my development as a street portraitist. I learned I didn’t have problems approaching people once I’m in the right mood.
So I thought about shooting 100 strangers or starting a 365 days project, but after two weeks of doing headshots I needed to push the whole idea a little further. I saw a horizontal triptych at an art gallery in my hometown and a few days later, on my way to work, the idea of portraying strangers in vertical triptychs was born.
I’ve been traveling a lot for two years now. And since I started shooting strangers a year ago, it’s even more fun. What better excuse to talk to a stranger than an international street project? I look around places I love to hang out myself. When someone looks interesting I just go for it. I start by introducing the project and by the time I explained everything they go “And now me?”
Most people are flattered because I’m not only up to take their picture. I really like to know who they are and what they do, to reveal their personality in these three shots.
This project is definitely about people and their stories. Fashion and beauty are relative and don’t have a strong focus here. Although I admit there are a few accessories which alert me – such as boots, hats or glasses. Still, it’s always decisive how many things I can read in a person just by walking by. I believe my strangers are getting their 15 minutes of fame, as Warhol said.
Meet Kharise Francis who is an up and coming artist ready to blow the fashion world away with her brand titled after noone else but: Damn right – Kharise Francis. A name that sounds everything but ordinary, maybe sophisticated, but ordinary(?): not so much. Sophisticated like the style of womenswear I recognized that sunday at her “stall” at Old Spitalfields market! Add original, eclectic, feminine, chic and preppy your are right at it. Kharise targets the extroverts with her work. She could be one as well – according to her style you might not have any doubts here. But after our brief encounter I wouldn’t say so. I experienced her as calm, down to earth and unobtrusive – in style. Get a feel how she sees the world and where I met her – tumblr.
Kharise Francis is just 22 years old and after working for the industry for a few years, she now is self employed. You can find her works all over the web> even dated in 2008 – that’s quite a lot for someone at her age. Her relationship status is single. While others get worried, this situation won’t lead to problems in her life. “A relationship can be a burden in a city like London, especially if you don’t command yourself to just one sex like me. This simply doesn’t make sense to me.” (laughing)
Creativity surrounds her. While showing me her work, I had a constant feeling she puts a lot of passion and energy into fashion and especially her brand.
Who else could she be than just: The Kharise Francis herself.
Meet the stranger with the melodic name Kim Tae Hwan. He is 35 years old and maybe our first real celebrity – he is a fashion/editorial photographer mostly working for Elle, Dazed and Confused or Cosmopolitan. But I also enjoyed his efforts in street and beauty. His clients book him because of his very own signature. Now you are right to say: that’s the minimum you should expect from a professional photographer. But most of his releases for fashion are on polaroid, at least they are in fact analog. I think that’s quite unusual … so in that very moment he was telling me his story with this antique jewel in this hands … I thought this guy must be an analog lover. Look a his amazing work on his website.
Kim Tae Hwan lives is from Busan, the second biggest city in South Korea. He spends most of the time traveling around the world – a citizen of the world. I really wonder how many stamps he might have in his passport. He just finished a video shoot in London and had a few days left to spend. It was really fun talking to him. We had some minor lost in translation kinda like problems, but luckily his was his korean entourage of two and one of them was actually living in London.
Meet Jaa, she is 56 years old and she is member of an ethnic group known as Red Dzao. If you ever meet a Red Dzao in the streets ;-) you might recognize them from their beautiful red turbans (they come in many forms) and these iconic clothes. Additionally as a Red Doa woman Jaa has her eyebrows and forehead shaved off – she told me that this is traditionally regarded as a sign of beauty. Her English was remarkable and in general the English of any other hill tribe member around Sapa is actually better than the english of the people in Hanoi.
Jaa has a husband and five kids (four girls and one boy). They make their living from cultivating corn and rice, but since they have seasonal weather in this subtropical area of Vietnam they learned to market themselves …. their handcrafting skills to be exact. Means they sell metal or silver bracelets, bags, scarf or any sewed and embroidered type of clothes you can imagine. What wondered me the most is their persisting style of selling their stuff. As soon as you enter a village of hill tribe they follow you all the way through the village … I knew this from other villages and I know I could have sent them off easily, but I pretty much enjoyed Jaa’s company. The way she introduced me to everyone and giving me information about her view on life in general was mind-blowing. Buying a souvenir in the end was pretty much a win win situation here.
By the way hand made goods are only sold by the woman – her husband always stayed at home and was looking after their children and now helping out with their children’s children. I am under the expression that only this is the reason why the woman speak English so well, know how to write while the men can’t. I bet she has been inking cloth a couple of days ago. You must know they use indigo plants to give their clothes this deep dark blue. Without any precautions made you can expect your fingers to be blue for a coupe of days.
Before I explained the concept he said: “Excuse me: I was sitting in the cafe for hours and I really need a cigarette now. If you don’t mind …”
Paulo is 36 years old, a parisian. He is an perfectionist personal assistant by day and after hours he might be cooking Chou Farci (“You really don’t know?”) a cabbage roll. His relationship status single and he is gay. His favorite movie is My Girl with Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin. I loved how he said “Sooooo emotional” with his slight french accent. Probably the most elegant stranger I met so far.
Meet Marta, 29 years old, lives and works as an illustrator in Hamburg – check out her bittersweet style :-) – here. She has a strong weakness for sweet, especially cakes and biscuits – she pointed out that she is not much into the colorful wine-gum stuff. She once tried to quit eating sweets for a week and ended up lying around with a full belly only 6 hours later.
I assume she is quite famous in her neighborhood – at least her voice is: she loves to interpret songs by ? The Smiths in german.
Meet Pierre. He is 25 years old and lives in Paris and studies at a “business school”. His relationship status is … “Äääh” … “Complicated?” – “Yes!” And his sexual orientation “Straight/Gay?” – “Gay!”. Needless to say knowadays (?): but thanks for being so open. He loves movies – one of his favorite is One Night at the Roxbury.
He didn’t know what to do with the hands, so I asked him about the content of his pockets > iPhone. Then I asked him about his favorite song or anything else that comes up to his mind > :-)
Very cool guy – it was so much fun talking to him.
Welcome Vinchee, everyone. 20 years old and a student of radio production (really don’t know what that is). Vinchee lives in corner called Shueng shui, New Territories. I would describe her as a very open, funny and willing person … Especially because I practically shoot her twice. The first place was too busy and I didn’t like the traffic in the background. After checking the pictures I asked her whether it would be possible to do it again somewhere else. You might recognize the small alley in the background we found – way better. She likes fashion and loves to mix western fashion with rare to find cute individual elements. But she would never refer herself to Kawaii – a japanese term I learned about last year in Tokyo. Some more trivia: She is a fan of cosplay– at the last convention she wore a costume of Catwoman. She also likes oil painting and reading novels. Novels like westside’s Harry Potter or eastside’s traditional Hong Kong novels.
Hong Kong speaking of which. She told me she is a girl from Hong Kong, but she is not a Hong Kong Girl ……………???……………. Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought. But she explained it somehow like this: Imagine you met a girl. You both fall in love but after a while you feel being treated like a chinese dumpling … I mean you get dumped by her. Well that’s that a typical behavior for a Hong Kong Girl as soon as she knows you are as poor as a church mouse (german phrase) – she will leave you. Vinchee is not that kind of girl. But I really wonder why her relationship status is still complicated. Maybe this hints to that there are not enough guys in china who understand the obvious. Or is china just smaller than we think?
So what’s the thing in the middle. All I know is – I could never … Not even if they were fresh. Yes they are not … “Century Egg is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.” Yes, and she just bought those, also looking to forward to eat them soon. I was told she is totally in love with these sweet eggs how she described them.
A wonderful and long encounter. Thanks to Vinchee for her patience and a special thanks to her best friend Holman helping out with answers and questions.
Meet Georg, 30 years old and he is first real Berliner I met in this project. He is playing basketball in a club called Empor, very famous in Berlin. Hip-Hop is the music genre of his choice. The combo of the moment is Doppelgangaz … I looked them up and I think this song here is dope and had to be added to my own library immediately. Doppelgangaz – Lalala
You might have noticed that he is a graffiti artist. Georg has been spraying for more than 15 years. I had to ask him whether he got busted in the past! Three times – first time at the age of sixteen. But luckily he could manage to get off the hook every time. Thanks to his supportive parents and outstanding negotiation skills of his lawyers. When things started to become more and more complicated he decided to find a way to pursue his hobby without adding too much thrill to his general stress level. Luckily he found a way to do his art and earn some money too as a semi-pro graffiti artist.
It seems like he is going to be one of them – he is a student of architecture. Can’t wait to see his works in a few years … Who else could he be than “The Graffitect”.
“As a self taught photographer I love shooting street and documentary. Originally from Nigeria, but born and raised in Germany, I live and work in Hamburg.”