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.
"I tell people, 'You always want to know where you're going before you get there.' I wasn't going to wait for someone to change my destiny. I always changed it within myself. When I was not happy, I moved to something else - I did engineering, welding, worked at country clubs, cruise ships, JazzFest... I used to be a workaholic. I provided for my family, bought nice artwork and stuff like that. But all my investments before Katrina were lost. Life is to be lived. When I looked at the level in which I was making a lot of money, I didn't really want it, because there's a lot of effort and anxiety that comes with keeping it and controlling your finances. Now I look at having less as being more comfortable. When we beat ourselves up trying to keep up with the things that we have, it's almost like a form of slavery. We enslave ourself to the things that we want, and lose the sense of family and love. We miss what it's totally about. Everything that I've done in my life - it's like a dance. It's in motion."
"My friends listen to a lot of EDM (electronic dance music) and I started hanging around them more and more and then EDM just grew on me and now I can't get enough of it. There's so many combinations you can make out of it... the possibilites are endless. There's always something new. People even make EDM remixes of EDM songs! It really gets real. I love it when the beat drops. It gets me hype! I'm just like headbanging, ya know?"
"I have adult kids... I have a 25 and a 23 year old. I always knew, but I came out right after 9/11. 9/11 was hard and I had a tragedy happen also around that time and it sent me in a spiral and I realized I needed to do me. I needed to be right for me. I was either going to do that or not live anymore. When I first came out, my kids were young. They were being fed things - very religious background. They thought 'Dad's going to hell now.' It was very difficult. But I went from not being able to see them to having the best relationship I could ever had with them. So it was a hard ten years, but I wouldn't give it back because I have a better honest relationship with both my kids today than I did even when I was married and they were little - it was fake.
"The advice I give is if your own family is chastising you: build support in your friends. They become your family. And know that eventually years down - 5, 10, whatever how long it takes - your family will come around. Mine did. If my family came around, anybody's family will come around. [...] Don't speak negatively about anything. Just be patient. I never spoke negatively of my ex-wife in spite of her and her family speaking negatively to my kids about me. But today my kids are grown, have their own opinions, and now they have a better relationship with me then they do with their mom or her family. They told me 'Thank you for never feeding that negativity about the other person or the other people. I appreciated that.' And now we're open and honest and have a better relationship than anybody. It takes time."
"His daughter's graduation was on the 21st of May and it was a whole family gathering - and I knew what that was about, so I met the kids and the family, all of his 100 cousins, literally. It was smooth. [...] We became official that Monday."
"I'm going to grow old with this one."
[2/2] "I try to spend all the time I can with my grandkids. I want to teach my grandchildren to earn their own. You don't have to be a criminal to make it in the world. I'm very highly on them about education. They're in a lot of academic programs, they go to academic schools. And I'm going to always be in their life to keep them positive, so they can know there is another side other than low poverty level.
It don't take much to come to something like this. I only had like $20. I managed to get my grandkids crawfish, corn, sausage, and all snowballs. So we good. Even when my kids was growing up, I was a single parent, but I always kept them in high academic schools. We lived in the hood, but I brought them to school out of the hood, which was the best thing I could do. Now all of them are over 30 years old and very successful."
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.