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’m from Chalmette - born and bred. I grew up at a time where it was safe. Kids played sports - they didn’t shoot people. […] I was a fireman and a paramedic. I’ve had life go out in my hands, and I’ve also brought life into the world with my hands. That’s a humbling experience. It’s so fragile - you’re here one second and literally gone the next. So you have to enjoy everything. Just enjoy the time between the seconds in your life because they matter a lot.”
“My brother died in 2011. He got killed just two months from graduation from college. It was so sad. He was almost there. He was in Baton Rouge studying criminal justice. I remember we used to go to the snowball stand a lot and he would get sour apple and grape. That was his favorite snowball. And we used to just chill - regular bro stuff, play games, hang out. Ever since then I said I’m gonna make him proud - do something with myself. I've learned to live life to the fullest because you never know when your time is going to be up. So I just started doing everything. I do more art now - started getting out of my comfort zone, started painting. I want to do something amazing with my life.”
“What are you proud of?”
“My three kids.”
“I have rules and regulations and I tell them things that they need to do and dadadadada and well, you can figure out the rest. I think in my head all the time that they’re just like the average child - it goes in one ear and comes out the other. But in every day, day to day life, they show me in their actions that they’re hearing everything that I’m saying. And that makes me very proud of them, to know that they’re receiving the things that I’m telling them, because it’s going to make their life much better."
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.