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.
"She's shy now but once she gets to know you she'll talk a hole in your head. And she loves music - especially Beyoncé. And she can sing that K Michelle!"
"I’ve always had lots of hair and it was very typical African American long, thick hair. It was always a source of pain in my life. I had to comb it… the hair-dressers hated to see me and I hated to see them even more. When I first found out about locks 31 years ago, I was like ‘this is what I’ve been growing my hair for!’ And I started locking 31 years ago. And it’s just perfect for me. It’s a direct connection to my African roots and the naturalness and beauty of African women all over the world. I want to to inspire other girls to know that you don’t have to suffer through burns and perms to be beautiful. Your natural beauty is just so wonderful."
“I grew up with my father taking me to games so this has been a family thing for thirty-something years. And I’m a season ticket holder even though I live in Houston. I came in from Houston so I could take my nephew to the Monday night game. It's sort of a tradition.”
“Me and my dad sort of had this relationship that was very cut and dry. He’s a business man so it was very ‘Get this done and do it well and I’m not going to congratulate you on it because it’s your job and it’s expected of you.’ So it was always like ‘Dad, I got straight A’s! I’m going to be a salutatorian!’ and he’s like ‘Okay. You go to school to get good grades. This is not abnormal.’ My proudest moment was when I was a senior in high school - I got the call from Tulane that I’d been awarded this legislative scholarship which was completely merit based. It was significant in that it recognized all of this hard work that I’d done that more or less went unnoticed. I immediately hung up the phone with Tulane and called my dad and told him and he just broke down on the phone. And it was the moment that he realized - he said, ‘I feel like I devalued your work through high school and now that you have this incredible opportunity to go to an incredible school for free, I realize that I was completely wrong.’ I was proud of myself, but more importantly, I was so proud of my dad for getting to connect with me in a way that we never had before."
“When my grandmother passed away, he had just talked to her for the first time ever on the phone - she’s from Honduras. That was really hard - I’d never lost a close close family member before. He knew how I loved her because he’d had an opportunity to talk to her and knew how close I am to my family. And he was just there with a compassionate heart and just listened."
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.