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Friday, August 21, 2009

The $1 Street Portrait Project, Part 1

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 3:54 PM

  • Joseph Schell
This project is not original, but I loved it enough to give it a go myself. The premise: hit the streets with a camera and a pad of paper and offer people $1 in return for their portrait and a bit about them. The result was a pieced together collage of people in the city--a sample of its demographic. Granted, a test group of 10 or 12 won't give us the best data. But it's more of an art project than it is ethnographic research.

For this set, we traveled by bike through Hayes Valley, around Civic Center, the Tenderloin, Chinatown, North Beach and down the Embarcadero and interviewed roughly 20 people. Over the 2-3 hour excursion we had a lot of people tell us they didn't want their photo taken (some rather adamantly). But warmth overcame skepticism for most. Special thanks to Sara Hart Weihmann for her note taking and assistance.

  • Joseph Schell
Name: Anne
Age: 25
Home: Denmark
Background: We found Anne wandering around North Beach. She's a well-traveled linguistics student at Berkeley taking summer courses and said she was surprised by the "American" attitude: "They think they can do whatever they want," she said. In Scandinavia they're taught to be less outgoing.
Quote: San Francisco is the... "Best culture shock I've ever experienced."
Response to the $1: Surprise, followed by sheepish acceptance.

  • Joseph Schell
Name: Roger Garrison
Age: 44
Home: Nob Hill, SF
Background: A San Diego native, Roger only moved here 6 months ago. He was on a break from work when we approached, smoking a cigarette and clad in a white apron and screaming tie. Roger quickly unloaded his life details.
Roger's a writer working as a waiter at Boulevard. Working on his second go at a novel, Roger has been attending a variety of writing groups and getting a good response. The novel titled Sam found and Tom is the story of an orphan boy and a funeral director who just buried his parents.
Quote: "The novel has WTF moments at every flip of the page."
Response to the $1: Refusal at first, then took it when we suggested he donate to someone else.

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Joseph Schell


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