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’d been working on this chord progression for a while but no words were coming or anything. Well one day Hoot, the bum across the street, came up to me and asked me if I had any money. And normally I do, but that day I was really broke - I said ‘No I don’t have any money today, sorry.’ And so he got really depressed and I felt bad so, okay, I had 47 cents in my pocket. Said ‘Here ya go man! Hey 47 cents!’ and he just got elated, man. He started to do this little dance, this jig and everything, skipping around. He goes ‘Somebody’s looking for me, just gotta figure out who it is!’ Well, that became the hook to the song. So I bought a hook for my song for 47 cents. Then I was at Frady’s Sandwich Shop one day playing my guitar and a man from New York came by. He had been searching all over the country to find the ‘real thing’. So I was sitting here kind of drunk, playing music and I played that song that Hoot gave me for 47 cents. And the guy said ‘You know we’ve been traveling all over the country. We’ve been to New York, Nashville, Austin, San Francisco, LA, trying to find the 'real thing' when it comes to music, and down here in the gritty old Bywater we found it.’ And he gave me a hundred dollar tip. For a 47 cent song!”
"I came out to my family two years ago at Thanksgiving with my boyfriend next to me. And when I tell you the whole family, I mean both sides, dad and mom’s. So imagine seeing 250 people sitting at your dinner table and you tell them that you’re gay. My mom has a big plantation—she has a lot of land—so that’s where we go for major holidays. And I came out, and it was hard. The first few days, my dad and my brother didn’t talk to me. But everybody else was very open about it. They’re like, ‘We already knew. We still love you. We was just waiting for you to tell us.’"
"We were good friends for a long time – best friends. He liked me and I liked him, but we would never tell each other that we liked each other. He had to go back to Michigan to help his mom with his dad – and I always respected that - so we lost contact with each other for a couple of years until one day he got back in the military, he made contact with me, and he sent me this letter stating that 'Oh I'm so proud of you... I heard you graduated from undergrad! And I heard you was engaged!' - but I think the engagement part was really just a way to figure out my status 'cause nobody told him I was engaged and I wasn't engaged. I was just so excited and happy to hear from him. So we got back in touch with each other and we started dating. He would come down to New Orleans and we'd spend some time together. We planned our wedding a year in advance. It was the ideal wedding. The beautifulest wedding. July 11, 1992. I tell you, if we don't go past today, I have truly been blessed. He is an awesome man."
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.