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.
“He dumped me for someone else. We were together eleven years. He was a nice guy - he cared about me a lot. Beautiful guy. But it’s over. When I’m alone at home, music is bad for me. I love music, but it’s the worst thing because the words of the songs kill me."
"Every day, seven days a week, they wake me up early to go for a bike ride. And they love watermelon, that's their favorite."
“I’d just gotten out of a bad relationship and my best friend saw me sulking, so she invited me to come out. He was giving a party at his home. We got there and we realized we’d met before but never really spoke to each other. So we started talking, and for three days he locked me inside [his house]. I thought I was kidnapped, but it was him genuinely being like ‘You’re not leaving me.’”
“He literally locked you inside?”
“Literally. You couldn’t go out the window or anything.”
“I had a key-in-key-out gate, so I was like (to her) ‘Look, I’m about to go to work, and I’m going to be back in like 5 hours.’”
‘He left me with everything that I needed, right down to a comb, a hair brush, stuff to take a bath with, t-shirt, underwear. He did this for three days. And I was like okay, I gotta go home. I went home and I stayed home for 24 hours… then he [faked being sick]. This happened several times. I get there and no sickness or nothing. He just wanted me there.”
"I told her ‘I miss you. I cannot live without you. When you leave me, I’m lonely. I don’t know what it is, I just met you, but I think I like you a whole lot.’"
“After the third time I went there, my mom brought all of my clothes - [she said] ‘Okay, since you going to keep taking her, you take care of her!’ And he said ‘Ms. Carter, I promise you, for the rest of her life, I will take care of her.' And we’ve never parted since.”
"When we was coming up, everybody was family. You could go to your neighbors, the neighbor would feed you. Our parents would feed our neighbors. You didn’t know what it was to be hungry. People wasn’t selfish. […] In school we got chastised by the teachers. It was okay. Your neighbors could chastise your children. Not anymore. I think that’s why we’re losing our youngsters."
"We were raised like that. We were raised to respect our elders, it was a big part of our life growing up. Respect all people, but especially your elders. […] Children these days, they don’t respect themselves, no less everybody else.”
“I’m in the process of selling my house [to the current tenants]. That house was literally almost three years of blood, sweat, and tears, and every penny I had in order to renovate it. It was my first house out of a dozen houses I’ve bought in New Orleans. It set off so much for me in life. I met my wife through buying that house, I’ve grown that into a really nice little real estate thing, and I learned a million lessons there.”
“So, why are you selling it?”
“Just saying goodbye to the house and putting it on the market and selling it to some stranger for the highest price you can get was not what I wanted to see for this house. But the people in that house are such good people - they’re perennial renters - if I [put that house on the market], those people aren’t going to be in the neighborhood anymore. The truth is, a lot of tenants have what we say is ‘no visible means of support.’ They don’t have a fucking job, you know? But they pay the rent every month and they’re awesome people. I live in an amazing, funky, fun, artistic, creative [neighborhood and] city, and I’m not really very interesting or artistic or creative myself. But the way I feel that I can contribute is making sure that those people have a place to live, you know, that they’re not pushed out of the neighborhood. That’s my contribution."
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.