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.
"After the storm, everybody was ordered to put their refrigerators out on the sidewalk because it’s a health hazard. It was like sentinels: you came down the street and you saw this whole long road, like little soldiers going down the street. But nobody just put their refrigerator out—we had to make editorial comments, because it’s the way we are. So you’d see this one said, ‘Really disgusting gumbo in here. This one’s for you, George Bush!’ or 'Thanks Corps of Engineers, we really appreciate the bath!’ This very peculiar sense of humor we have here: It’s one of the coping mechanisms. We just find things amusing that other people don’t find that amusing."
“In Oregon, you don’t walk up to someone and tell them off for doing something wrong! You like, politely write them an email that passive aggressively suggests that you might be frustrated. When I started teaching in New Orleans, parents would walk up to me and just scream at me! And then hug me! And then like, kiss me on the cheek and then invite me for dinner. It’s this very honest, open willingness to say, ‘You’re going to make a lot of mistakes - you ARE making a lot of mistakes. I love you anyway. But don’t for a second believe that you have on a red cape, because that’s in your brain.’”
"When I was in film school I was so terrified of believing in my own ideas and speaking and having a voice and being confident in what my thoughts were. And I met Maya and we became friends and she just had such a way of hearing things and looking at things which wasn’t judgmental, but was about following your path. She really believed in my film even when my teachers told me it was impossible. And I think at that point I didn’t know when to not listen to people, especially educators. She brought about this belief in myself just though being able to see what I was seeing but apparently none else could see."
"I’ve been through drugs and all that shit. I used to drink. I gave all that up and I’m trying to give up cigarettes. Got my GED. I went out for welding, ‘cause I love welding. I went to job corps, did that for 11 months except the instructor, he got prejudices and didn’t give us no paperwork on what we used to do in the shop so I just had to take my licks. After I didn’t get the welding trade, I fell back in cooking because I know I love cooking. I used to watch my mom and my grandma cooking all the time. I’m real good at cooking and baking. I bake cakes, pies, biscuits with peaches on there, yeah all 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.