Editor’s Note: Claire Bangser is a New Orleans-based freelance photographer and short filmmaker, and founder of the Roots and Wings Creative. Her work – spanning commercial and editorial projects – is centered around telling human stories powerfully. In February 2014, she started the popular New Orleans street portrait project NOLAbeings. Since then, her work has been featured by a wide range of media, including National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME, Wired, Glamour, Vox, Amazon’s DP Review, Le Parisien Magazine and New Orleans Magazine. Claire leads trips every summer for National Geographic Student Expeditions, where she teaches filmmaking and photography to high school students abroad.
“What’s occupying my mind? The uncertainty of what’s to come. Will I live the next year in this city or in another environment, that’s gonna be somewhere else? I’m getting a new visa so hopefully I can continue working in this beautiful place. I have to be here… it just feels right.”
“How do you cope with uncertainty?”
“I consume a lot of music and a good bit of alcohol, and I make sure I am in good company all the time.”
“I write poems and songs and roasts and toasts and stuff for people, so my company is called Toast of the Town. It’s a blast. I’ve been doing it since high school. [For example,] if a group of people want to give the bride something, I interview all of them with my little tape recorder, and then I write it in second person like they came up with it. […] They tell me the flavor – whether it’s gotta be raunchy or funny – a lot of it is sentimental. You know, I’ll write something for someone who just passed away.
My mom was a poet, so I started reading her stuff when I was little. She died when I was only 26. I wrote her two or three things before she passed away. She said ‘I think you got the gene, baby. I think you got the gene.'”
“I remember when I was five or six going to Jazz Fest, my mom would just put a sticker with a piece of duct tape and our names on it and ‘If lost, return back.’ Then she’d just be like… ‘Run it!'”
“I grew up in New Orleans and went to a school called John Curtis. I was the first African American to go to school there, in 1979. But it was a good experience. Everybody treated me like I was part of the family. I was a running back. I went to Southern Methodist University and then I was drafted in the first round by the Patriots. We played against the Saints my rookie year. All my family, my [high school] coach, Coach J.T. Curtis came. It was good to come back home and play against the whole team… but I’m always a New Orleans person. I’m a Saints fan, to be honest with you.”