Claudia (Stranger #43/100), London Liverpool Street

Wednesday evening saw me in Brick Lane for a model shoot, and I’d seen some new street art I was keen to use for stranger portraits. Thursday then, I was all geared up to head over after work. Another long day, however, left me in a position where I’d either be shooting in the City next to my office or compromising on light at the end of a twenty minute walk.

I took the first option and was soon set up with reflector and on camera softbox just outside Liverpool Street station.

Ahead if me down the street I then saw Claudia and her daughter Julia, or specifically Julia who had turned to look back up the street. She had a beautiful look with bold spectacles, and I immediately broke with normal protocol to rush up the street to introduce myself to their backs. This always feels less polite than greeting people as they approach, and I fear the first impression I gave was likely as uneasy as I felt.

Julia and her mother Claudia were speaking Portuguese, and initially pretended to speak no English! Claudia’s fierce curiosity, however, got me an interrogation and by degrees she admitted her fluent English.

A Brazilian now living in London she’s a family and immigration lawyer, and her passion and penetrating intellect were grippingly clear through a five minute conversation about the project, her work and then the impact of FIFA’s World Cup in Brazil. I couldn’t have expressed her damning criticism of FIFA’s intentions any better if I’d spent a year drafting a statement on paper. What’s more she delivered it with the force of a steel clad hurricane. In a legal confrontation, with Claudia involved, it’s pretty clear to me that you need her on your side of the table, because the alternative is defeat.

Although my initial pitch had been to shoot Julia’s portrait, by now the discussion had so become about Claudia I asked if we could instead shoot together. If she’d declined I’d have respected it of course, but would have missed documenting one of the most memorable and engaging exchanges the project has brought me to date.

The image is still a team effort, with Julia doing an incredible job with a gold reflector, just millimetres out of shot. Meanwhile, Claudia it turns out is an ex model, and took enough portraits both silly and serious to fill a whole set of posts. This is nearly the last frame we shot, after a quick review and my asking to shoot a couple more. When I suggested more Claudia agreed, but said, “Oh no! That means you don’t like any of them!”.

That wasn’t the case at all – they’re all superb. What I hadn’t seen though until this frame was one that balanced Claudia’s energy and smile, with her fierce, passionate intellect. I think this one does, and am so glad I went a little beyond comfort in reshooting to find it!

Thank you then Claudia for agreeing to take part! I hope you and Julia are having a fantastic Easter weekend and like the portrait!

This is portrait #43 of my 100 Strangers Project – check out the group page and get involved.

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