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 nervous at first. I was like 'I'm not going to be pretty...' One of my friends did my make up and my hair and my dress and everything. When I turned around and looked in the mirror I was... dumbfounded. I was just shocked. I felt like a woman - I felt beautiful, like I could just sashay all around. Michael’s kind of shy and keeps to himself. Trinity is outgoing, life of the party, loud - pretty much your true alter ego. And I’m thankful that I have Trinity because she has helped me in my day-to-day life to be more comfortable and more open with people as Michael."
"I was chasing dreams that really weren’t mine. I was really good in school - I always did science and stuff - so everyone kind of pushed me to go into a medical career. And I was so unhappy. I could do it, but I was terribly unhappy. I finished school, got a degree in molecular biology and worked in a lab briefly and just hated it. Finally, I was just like ‘You know what? I’m going to do flowers. I’m going to make it happen.’ Now I’m a full time florist and I just picked some shifts at this market and I’m so much happier."
"I’ve been taking care of my mother since I was eleven. She was a diabetic, she was blind, she was on dialysis, so she had a lot of different medical issues. She went blind in 2001 and kind of like after that I was just taking care of her, making sure she’s okay, putting her first. I’m an only child and my parents separated when I was five. Growing up, most kids are playing outside, but I was inside making sure she was okay, doing laundry, cleaning the house, not really having a real childhood. I'd try to go out with my friends but it never would really last long ‘cause she suffered from seizures and strokes too so it’s kind of like, you had to be on your A-game and be alert to everything that’s going on with her. […] She passed last summer. This summer makes it a year. [Now] I’m trying to graduate from Xavier - I study public health so I’m trying to get my degree, get an internship, get a job, stuff like that. I just want to be successful, I want to make my mother proud, make my father proud. I want to help people that’s been in situations that I’ve been in. You never know somebody until you talk to them and have a conversation. My mother talked to anybody and everybody. I used to complain about it but now I understand why - you never know who you’re talking to - what you can gain from them and what they can gain from you."
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.