Editor’s Note: Multimedia artist Claire Bangser created NOLAbeings as a portrait-based story project that marries image and text. Inspired by the Humans of NY project, it stems from the belief that we can all learn from one anothers’ 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. After discovering and falling in love with the project, editors at NolaVie asked to post a weekly roundup of her most visually and narratively stimulating photos.
“We both got really drunk after being together about five years. We were in a dive bar – we’re very classy people – and he asked me to marry him and I said yes. He had the day off the next day, and I run my own company, so we went to the courthouse the next day and got married.”
“What has that commitment taught you?”
“What I’ve learned is patience and I’ve learned how to be sensitive. I’m Russian and Jamaican, so I was brought up in a very strict household. My mother was from a very military style family and brought that into raising me and my sister. So sensitivity was not one of her strong suits. And I am not always so sensitive to other people’s feelings. He’s the more emotional side, I’m more practical and logical. So it’s still baby steps for me, being the sensitive type, but he teaches me this.”
“Most kids be stuck on the games and TVs, but we go outside, probably go to the park, the library, just go do something! This is my first time going to a Saints game.”
“We do something that’s healthy for our hearts and bodies to stay healthy. I like to dance – like fast dances like remixes to songs and stuff.”
“I always like to cook but I can’t cook.”
“I always like to drive.”
“Well, I wish I could drive. I’m six.”
“I load trucks at night – from 5:30 until 5 in the morning. It’s a lot of work. I just like to work. That’s all my time is on: work. I don’t even have no social life. I just lay my head down, by the time I get up it’s time to go back to work. When I’m not at work, I ride my bike most of the time. I ride my bike all around town.”
“What do you think about?”
“Really, I’m just focusing on getting some kind of leather business going. Last week somebody called me about the leather work I do. […] I want to design some type of leather shoes. My mind be going ‘What can I do next?’ I’m trying to focus on that. I’m trying to make money – cause it’s hard out here. Trying to do something positive. Anything I do, I want it to be positive.”
“We watched the water begin in the street, like ‘Maybe it won’t be bad.’ And then we watched it come in the yard… ‘Maybe it won’t be too bad.’ In ’83 when the Amite flooded it got up to the front porch and that’s as bad as it got. We hoped it would be that high. And then it started coming in from all four sides. We had my 10 year old niece and my 8 year old nephew from Texas here. And we were telling them at one o’clock ‘We have to get in the attic and this is why.’ And they didn’t understand. ‘Why? What will we eat? Who will come for us? What will we do? Where will we go?’ When the water started coming in, we knew it was too late. So we started grabbing whatever we could. I’m still wearing the same pants I’ve worn since it happened. Thank God for the neighbor who sent a boat for us. And we had to go by boat up to O’Neil and wade through the water with gasoline and fire ants and all sorts of other stuff, to where the National Guard would pick us up. They took us to a shelter that had flooded. And then they took us to another shelter that wasn’t set up yet. And I called a friend of mine who lives downtown. She said ‘I have no room for you, but I’ll come and give you a hug.’ I was like ‘I’ll take it!’ Then I got in touch with another friend who lives across the river in the only parish not part of this emergency – West Baton Rouge – and she graciously let us stay at her house for a couple days.
“Once we were able to come back and just look – I can’t describe. This is the house I grew up in. And all my memories here, I see all this stuff coming out, and I can’t process it yet. My parents were married for 53 years, so 53 years of their life together is going in this trash pile. It’s the little things – like my grandmother’s desk that mom restored after Grandma died. She probably can’t do anything with it now. I don’t know. I just thank God I have wonderful friends willing to lend their bodies and their muscles. They’re exhausted from gutting other houses, giving their time just to do this. This is hard work.”