Editor’s note: Multimedia artist Claire Bangser started a new portrait-based story project that marries image and text. NOLAbeings is inspired by the Humans of NY project, and comes from the belief that we can all learn from each others’ stories. Primarily featured on Instagram (and tumblr), Claire meets people in coffee shops, grocery stores, living rooms, sidewalks, and learns something about each individual through a snapshot conversation and image. The first week saw 26 posts (and counting), so we here at NolaVie decided, after discovering and falling in love with the project, to feature a weekly ’roundup’ of these NOLAbeings. Each Friday we’ll exhibit five pieces to compile a cross-section of what this series documents on a continual basis.
“There’s a red dress run every August where the men dress up in red dresses and it’s a run for charity. So every year I go to JCPenny and buy a new dress. And the sales ladies love us. It’s so much fun. I have to go into the half sizes because I’m a little bit big. I’m now a size 14. But you know the biggest problem with ladies dresses? They don’t have pockets!”
“A guy tried to rob me, he pulled a gun out on me, and he got close enough on me and I grabbed his arm with the gun in it and we went to struggling for the gun and the gun went off and hit me in the chest. He ran – broke out and ran – he didn’t even know I’d been shot. So I’m very blessed from that. He shot my collar bone in the process, but you know. Around the time when that happened, the first district police caught him but it was a down-rated crime at the time so I don’t think when I got shot it was even wrote down as an attempted murder crime. That was in 2001, 11 days after 9/11.
“I like to talk to young kids about what’s going on today, you know with the killing and all that stuff – that’s really unnecessary. I try to point a lot of young kids and guys that’s younger than me in the right direction – because I’ve always listened to people that were older than me and I guess that’s made me a better person than I would have been, coming up.”
“I used to make instruments out of calabashes and then the clarinet came and took all of my time. I can’t walk away from it. I always try to walk away from it but I never will. There’s so many things in life that you want to walk away from – just like love, just like everything. You try to walk away but you can’t.”
“When I was 4 years old we were traveling from Istanbul to the Black Sea with my mom. Middle of the night, we took a break at a bus stop and my mom forgot me in the waiting area of the restaurant. The bus just left without me. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and it was just a desert somewhere. Anyway, there were a lot of buses there and I still remember thinking ‘I don’t know which one is our bus’ and I start going in each one and crying and yelling my mom’s name. And 10 minutes after the bus had left, mom realized that I was not there because she was so much paying attention with the little babies. She remembered and she yelled at the driver ‘Hey! We forgot my daughter!’”
“Did you forgive your mother?”
“Yeah, of course. She is a beautiful mother, a perfect mother. I understand the situation.”
“He’s my fourth child and he’s the last! My oldest is 10.”
“What do you hope to teach your children?”
“I hope to teach them to just live boldly and appreciate who they are individually and not succumb to standards of the norm, you know? Not conforming to the mentality that a lot of young kids are taught that it’s almost not safe to be who you are.”