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.
“When I was a kid and my dad would be going on the interstate, I would see the big billboards with the pictures - and I’m like ‘How did they do that?!’ So my mother purchased my first camera at a garage sale when I was about ten or twelve years old for fifty cents. I began shooting Canons, then Sears had one with the double exposure button and everything. I was just shooting anything and everything that interested me and I even sold pictures. I loved it. And I taught myself how to do graphic art. But now I’ve gotten away from it - now I detail cars and helicopters and airplanes and everything. You got to do something in life to survive, but it’s good to be versatile.”
“I was a camp counselor at this camp called Camp Harmony and at the beginning of the camp they called out all of the students’ names and my friend turned to me and was like ‘Oh you have one of the trouble kids.’ And I was interested by that because no one had ever told me a kid could be trouble. And I ended up being this girl’s counselor and I just realized she wasn’t a 'trouble' kid at all, she just needed to be a kid and needed to be allowed to have fun. And I allowed that. And we’re still friends to this day - it’s been three years. That just kind of sparked everything and I came to New Orleans and started teaching. I think in general kids definitely need more one-on-one attention and to be allowed to be themselves, and I think right now classrooms aren’t technically set up like that."
“My mother was 15 years old in the Calliope Projects. My father left for the Melpomene Projects - he was rough and rugged and my mama got pregnant. […] This house here on the corner - this red and white house, the biggest house on this block. That’s my great grandfather - he owned the Dew Drop Inn, it’s historical. So he was on his dying bed and my mama, he told her ‘tell her we going to keep him up here.’ So I had the best childhood - I was blessed. I was almost like Moses - you know, put him in the river and Pharaoh raised him up. I lived in the biggest house on the block. I had all the best education - I went to Lusher, I went to Green. Did all of that - played sports! I got in an automobile accident in ’01 - June. My health is deteriorating real bad, it’s getting kind of rough. But because I’m spiritually optimistic, I’m able to be here, right here talking to you. I’m making the best of my days.”
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.