Harriett (Stranger #95/100), London Brick Lane

Having met Mick, I caught up with the rest of the 100 Strangers group and wandered further down Brick Lane. Chatting with Peter I asked about the location of some street art he took an awesome shot of back in the summer. Discovering it was a couple of hundreds yards down the street we were stood at the top of, I wandered down that way to check it out.

Barbara had challenged me to get a colourful street portrait, and it’s true that I’m typically drawn to particular tone set of more neutral or single colour backgrounds. Though the vast wall of colour offered heaps of potential for a shot, there was barely anyone about. Heading back up to Brick Lane I figured I’d just have to convince someone to wander off with me.

Seeing Ray coming down the side street towards me though, I paused and had a look in the nearby shops. Behind the desk in a reasonably quiet hair dressers I saw Harriet. She had an understated glamour and I thought her wild hair and dark top would anchor her against the chaos of the wall, so plunged in “Aussie style” to see if she was interested in taking part.

At first Harriet was cautious, unsurprisingly and very fairly, but fortunately her co-worker was excited by the idea and promised to keep things ticking over in the salon. Thereby, a couple of minutes later we were on our way out, walking at pace to the quiet end of the street.

We chatted as we walked, and it proved an interesting echo of my conversation with Mick earlier in the day. A local all her life, Harriet chatted about the changes she was seeing in Brick Lane as the Bengali community reacted to the recent influx of Hipsters and vintage cool. It felt, she explained, like being suddenly at the centre of something dynamic, at the centre of a destination – as evidenced by the crowds of people taking in walking art tours or checking out the retro indie markets.

With hindsight I might have thrown the umbrella up for an extra punch of light, but between Ray and Harriet with a reflector each, and her natural poise, the soft misty light was coaxed into life to give a little shimmer across the scene. Harriet was amazing, offering a steady neutral gaze, whilst the explosion of her hair gave a kind of parallel gesture or movement to the energetic lines of the painting behind.

Thanks for taking a leap of faith and getting involved, Harriet – I hope you like your portrait. I don’t think anyone else would have had the calmness of expression and dramatic sweep of hair to work with the chaotic background.

This is portrait #95 of my 100 Strangers Project – check out the group page and get involved.

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