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.
"My son was very ill growing up. Very very ill. And when he was a junior in high school he was finally well enough that we could actually take a real vacation that was not medical. So I asked him where he wanted to go. I thought he might want to go to New York - which is where he was born - or Seattle because he was so into the Seattle music scene. And he looked at me and was like ‘I want to go to New Orleans.’ I was like ‘Really?! Okay.’ Well, we got off the plane [to New Orleans] and as soon as my foot hit the ground I knew I was home. It was spiritual."
“Met a piano player once and enjoyed being around the music. It was a several year long process of running into that piano player randomly, never set up or anything like that. And then one night, I got in a conversation with him and we never left each other’s sides for seven years until he died of cancer. The first year we were together we got in an argument and he said something I’ll never forget. ‘In every relationship, somebody does the adoring and someone is adored, and I adore you.' And never, from that day forward, did we ever speak another angry word ever. How could you?!"
“I grew up in the fifth ward and we always rode bikes. When we rode bikes, once you passed a certain boundary of a neighborhood you'd feel it, and you'd know it. It was like you were going into a whole ‘nother distant land. Your mother tells you ‘don’t go too far!’ but we always went way into these different distant lands on our little BMX bikes. And I learned that I could hold my own.”“Would your mother get upset that you’d gone too far?”
"She wasn’t telling me because it was the end-all of things, she was just telling me out of love and protection. She was that conscience and that awareness to be like ‘Watch yourself’ instead of ‘Don’t go.’ She showed me how to represent myself well."
“If you knew that thousands of people were going to see this picture and read what you said, what would you want them to know about you?”“I want them to know that me and other guys that I grew up with from this neighborhood, we trying to make it better for our kids that’s growing up in the neighborhood today. That’s what I would like for them to know about me right now. And it’s a police issue, but we trying to make that right. When they come out and actually meet some of us, I think that will make things better."
“And we have a mentorship program where we mentor young men - that’s what we all gathering up for right now."
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.