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 photos.
“They’re demolishing my house. It’s an old gas station. The original house was mid nineteenth century and then in the 20s they turned it into a service station until the 60s. We’ve been living there for about 6 years, but the past 5 years, property values and rent have gone up so much. They’re building 3 half-million dollar houses across the street from mine on a lot as big as mine, so they’re demolishing our house probably to do more of that. Our landlady gave us 30 days.”
“How do you deal with that?”
"You go into crisis mode and don’t have time to get existential about it. I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude because I don’t really have time to not have a positive attitude. Nobody is dead."
“My sons have taught me that love is definitely the strongest, most prevailing emotion and force in this world. And they've taught me through loving them and seeing what's happening in society, that it's lacking. It's not enough, and it's not okay."
"I want to be a teacher and a scientist, because I love children and I love experiences."
"It was obvious to me that I couldn’t safely get back to Touro – wading through the water in the dark – and who knows who’s shooting what around? So I decided to go back to the house. I figured, ok, I’ll spend the night here and get going in the morning. It was hot so I took the frozen strawberries out of the freezer and put them on my head to cool off. I basically just lied inside in the hammock and listened to myself sweat all night, cranked up radio to get some news. My wife thought I was dead. There was no communication. I’d left her at Touro and didn’t come back."
“During Katrina I went to this school called Bonnabel with my great grandmother. There was this pregnant lady from Philadelphia there - she was like 8 or 9 months pregnant. And every day I gave my grandma my food and water and gave the lady my food and water. I would not eat, just give it to them. Until one day I just passed out. I fainted and just fell. When I finally came to there was this army guy. I grabbed his hand. He picked me up and was like 'I understand you're doing good. But to help everybody else you gotta be strong yourself. You gotta keep yourself hydrated, keep yourself full so you can keep helping everybody like you're doing. You're doing a great job,' he said, 'The army would love to have a person like you.' So that's what inspired me to join the National Guard.”
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.