Who are you – and what the hell are you doing in my photo?

I’m one of those guys that likes to take photos of places rather than people. Oh sure, I don’t mind the odd “me in front of” photo, or happy snaps of my dearest, but generally I like to document where I’ve been, what I’ve witnessed, and as much detail about the scene as possible. So when I’m framing a shot I’m usually prepared to wait at least a few seconds for any tourists to clear out. I guess I just figure that if I can come home with nice “clean” photos sans tourists, then that proves I’m not a mere tourist myself – I am in fact, a battle hardened traveller.

pose1Of course it doesn’t always work out that way. Some places just seem to swarm with human activity 24-7, and a quiet moment between you and the monument/statue/biggest ball of twine in Minnesota simply isn’t possible. Then there’s the times when a single offender lingers just long enough to not only outlast your patience, but pass the sightseeing baton on to the next group of invaders, just before you can pull the trigger.

The end result tends to be lots of photos depicting just the intended subject, interspersed with a few others featuring a gaggle of flag following droves, or single, miserable loners, loitering near the edge of the frame.

Those photos are one of my pet hates, but the other day as I was flicking through some old photo albums, I actually paused to examine some of these people, and realised there is a whole phenomenon evolving that warrants investigation in its own right – the posing stranger.

The posing stranger isn’t like the tourist with the bright red hat that keeps popping up all over your visual chronicling of the dungeons of the Acropolis. They aren’t the moron doing a “photo bomb” in the background, mooning the camera, or giving someone unwanted rabbit ears. No, the posing stranger is more like an accidental friend, the sneaky one who sidles up and squeezes themselves into the corner of the scene, so unobtrusively that you don’t even notice until weeks later as you are proudly boring your friends with your snaps and accompanying commentary:

“And this is a statue of George W. Bush…”

“Who’s that on the right?”

“Er…. I’m not sure”

“But they’re smiling and looking at the camera like you know them”

“No…. I don’t know them, I guess they just happened to be standing there. Bastards!”

Who are these people? Where did they come from? And why did they choose to smile at that moment?

Time for me to find out!

I’ve decided I’m on the cusp of something big here (did someone say “book and movie deal?”), and apart from bombarding everyone I know, I’m going to milk this for all its worth over the coming week.

I’ve picked four photos from my past, each of which features a posing stranger, and with the help of you, your “friends” and world-wide social media, I’m going to find these four people, travel to their homes and ask them just what the hell they think they were doing.

Er, and while I’m at it I’ll probably ask them a few other things, like how they came to be in that moment, how their lives have panned out since, and what football team they support.

Stay tuned, this will be huge.

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