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.
“We was actually all over - Atlanta, Alabama, Baton Rouge. We was homeless for a time ’til we found somewhere. We came back in October ’08. My mom was already here rebuilding [this house], but she died, so it left us in a spot of responsibility. Fixing here, fixing there... just got overwhelming. I have eight kids, three in college. It’s hectic, really hectic. We used to come down here from Baton Rouge like four times a week to make it livable. [...] St. Bernard Project has been here about a month and a half helping and we just finished repairing my house [today]. It’s been really awesome. It’s like strangers come in, but they leave out family. I’m proud I finally finished my mom’s house.”
“My neighbor - a little white lady in the middle of the block - her car got hit and I was standing out here and I saw the guy hit her car. So I went down and hollered for her and helped keep [the driver] there so he wouldn’t leave. He was drunk. She came out and I called the police. When the police came, I tried to talk to him and he walked right past me and he started talking to her. He said ‘What’s the problem?’ and she said ‘Well my neighbor called you.’ He said (to me) ‘Is that your vehicle? Are you involved?’ I said ‘No, it’s not my vehicle.' He said ‘Well you get fuck on out away from here.’ My neighbor said ‘Now hold on, you are not going to talk to him like that!’ So then he was talking to her crazy. I said ‘You’re not going to talk to her that way either.’ He said ‘You don’t back up, you going to jail.’ I was like ‘Well, you may as well take me to jail right now.’ She was like ‘You gonna take me to jail also.’ She went back in the house and I called the commander - we have a real tight relationship. The lieutenant came, he looked at me said ‘Hey McCoy! What’s happenin’?’ He didn’t ask his officer what was going on, he asked me. Then the lieutenant pulled the officer on the side and talked to him. [...] About three hours later [the officer] is bamming on the door - boom boom boom! I come to the door, I said ‘Can I help you?’ He said ‘Yes, Mr. McCoy, I need to talk to you. I was just called down to the precinct by the commander and you’re pretty well known back there. I came to apologize. I had a bad day.’ I said ‘Someone’s going to really get hurt by you, or you going to get yourself hurt. You really need some more sensitivity training or something. Why do you think the commander and them know me so well? It’s because I done filed so many reports on all of y’all. […] I never get outrageous - you can be hooting, hollering. I’m going to be calm with you, and all the time just thinking about how I’m going to put some paperwork on you."
"I have six kids - my oldest is 22. I’ve had all kind of headaches! Some stuff you don’t have control over, so I just leave it in God’s hands. I instilled it in my children to thank the lord every day for waking them up to see another day. I wake up, pray with them, go to work, they go to school, I get ‘em and we come home. The next day, same thing. I'm simple. I just want to not have to be here too long, to be able to take them out this environment. I want a house, with my own front and back yard."
“We’ve been together 35 years. We met in a bowling alley. He was actually trying to get with the girl I was with, and he ended up with me. Just the way it was.”
“What’s your advice for a healthy, long marriage?”
“Separate bedrooms! I'm serious! He sleeps with the dogs in a double bed and I get a king size bed all to myself."
"I’ve been to Afghanistan twice, been electrocuted before, I did 16 years in the Navy and now I’m 50 millimeters from open heart surgery - so it’s time to live life. Two years ago I was like ‘I want some boobs!’ so I saved up seven thousand dollars and had surgery. I frickin' love them. My mom was just glad I didn’t get more tattoos!”
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.