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.
"About seven years ago we had a little dog that died. When I was in my grievance stage I saw an article on the internet about using miniature horses as guide animals for the blind. They interested me so I bought one. And then it was like a Lays potato chip... you can't have just one. You gotta have two because they get lonely. And now we have more animals than we can count."
“When me and my brothers started sewing I was about seven years old and a friend of ours by the name of Hoppy and his sons were sewing so we started sewing with those guys. First was our little brother - we masked him first. After we masked him we liked it even more, so we started sewing for our older brother. He was 13 when he first came out as a Mardi Gras Indian. All the friends, we’d all be at mama’s house stretched out and everybody was in a different room sewing and doing different things... We sew patches here, we put together patches there, we sew crowns in the next room, then marabou. Every year we made a new suit, a different color. Never used the same stuff twice. It was something to do and something to keep us out of trouble."
"What do you teach your little sister?"
"Grapes. And sharing."
“My proudest moment was probably when I got my second degree black belt. It took me like ten years. It’s hard being a disciplinarian on yourself in New Orleans. Honestly, I do kung fu because I was on heroin and I wanted to do something else. I was in the rave scene down here and it kind of fell apart and I wanted the body rush. I wanted something that would make me feel good. I started doing kung fu and now that’s kind of like my drug.”
“How does kung fu make you feel?”
"It makes me feel invincible. I always feel that the evolution of self never should end. There’s always room for change in people."
“My block is my favorite place in the world. I love living there and I love all of my neighbors. It feels really communal and everybody’s really different and everybody’s looking out for each other - old people, young people, black people, white people. But I’m moving and I’m really sad. I’m going to miss it a lot. You know, it’ll probably change too. These things never stay the same. One day quality control is going to come in and get the chickens out of the middle of the road and that charm will wear off. But until then, they climb up in the tree at night and like, shit on whoever’s car is below. And if you live on the block, you know not to park under the tree overnight, and if you don’t live on the block, you don’t know that."
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.