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 was working at a hotel on St. Charles Avenue with a couple of friends and there were three or four girls over there. We would go out together, go dancing in the street, and go take a shower at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning in the Lake Pontchartrain. We got a good time! You can’t do that no more. I feel sorry for young people in this country right now. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I’ve started doing bearded drag within the last year. I decided I wanted to keep my beard because I really like it and I liked the idea of bringing androgyny to it. I don’t want to be a pretty woman per se. I want to be pretty, but I want people to look and have to do a double-take and be like ‘He’s pretty, but oh wait, there’s a beard right there!’ and take all these pre-conceived notions of what is feminine and masculine and sort of mix them together."
"I was a little tomboy and we used to have the Lafitte Projects rolling and we didn't have no trouble or nothin' like that. If you went to sleep you could have your door busted wide open, nobody would even come in your house. That's how good it was. Now they got more god doggone trouble around here than a little. These youngsters, all they gotta do is get in a fight and they'll be ready to come back and kill you with a gun. If you're going to fight somebody, fight them with your fists. If they beat ya, forget about it! When we was coming up that's the way it used to be. Don't hold no grudges, keep on talking."
“My mama had a heart attack and my daddy had a stroke and it was life changing for me. I wanted to be there for my kids. The November after I had my youngest daughter, I was like ‘I’m turning 25, I’m gonna thrive' and I just changed my life - all my eating habits and everything. I took so many health classes it don’t make no sense. I lost 75 pounds. Spiritually I started going to church - I started doing yoga to meditate and everything and changed my attitude. I just tried to be greater."
"I want to start a business because my moms was going to open a business before she passed away in 2010 and I just want to keep it going - get a barber’s license and have my sisters take on cosmetology so we can run the shop. It means a lot to me 'cause I feel like she shouldn’t have died that early. She was only 34 years old and she had cancer. When it first happened I couldn’t cope with it. My dad is in jail, but when I do talk to him it’s some good conversations and advice he gives me. Like about staying out of the streets, ‘cause he knows where my head was at when she first passed. I didn’t want to do nothing. I didn’t want to go to school. Now I’m going to college."
Claire Bangser is a New Orleans-based photographer and filmmaker with a passion for storytelling. She is the creator of NOLAbeings and has produced work for local, national, an international organizations and media since 2009. Highlights include a three-month bike tour storytelling project on the west coast, documentation for a four-month National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant in Turkey, and New Orleans-based digital storytelling projects like Cry You One and BOUDIN: The New Orleans Music Project. Find more of her work at www.clairebangser.com.