100 Strangers Project - 80/100 by Michael Pung

I met Santiago whilst he was on his way to work, and he was quite happy to have his photo taken late in the afternoon. 

He comes from Manizales, Colombia and has been in Sydney for four months. During that time, he has spent the time balancing his studies, work and enjoying life in Sydney. 

"I don't have enough time because I have to work. I study during the day, after that I have to work at night. From 7 until 11. Usually on weekends I'm tired and I try to go outside and just look around Sydney. I have a lot of pictures."

He gives an insight into how life is like for people who have come here to live here for study purposes.

"Sydney is multicultural and crazy sometimes, I think because people from other countries have to study, work, study, work and sometimes it's tiring. But it's nice. I like Sydney, I have met a lot of people here, international people from all parts of the world."

What have you found challenging about moving to Sydney?

"Sometimes it's too busy, but it's not a challenge for me. I like travelling, I like to visit new places. I work yesterday, (but) I can do a lot of things. Maybe the English is a challenge, you can improve that." 

Thank you for taking part in the project Santiago!

100 Strangers Project - 79/100 by Michael Pung

Al is sitting on a bench enjoying a coffee on a busy street. And as I do when I discover an interesting character, I approach him to ask for a photo. He happily obliges. He tells me that recently, his niece found a picture on a website of him busking on the street and was surprised at the discovery. He tells me that he enjoys photography and that he used to get A’s in photography class back in his school days.

“I heard someone say ‘It’s a frozen moment in time.’ I really like that. If I went back through my negatives and printed one, it would still be the same person 25 years ago. Nothing would have changed.”

He tells me about how his old drinking habits:

“I don’t drink anymore, I haven’t drunk for 30 years.

I’m 71 and I feel 29. When you start drinking or taking drugs in order to cope with life, not just as a recreational thing, you stop growing emotionally. I started taking drugs at 21 and then 27 started drinking and I thought I was a genius! I was going to write a book about how to beat drugs: Just drink alcohol…” he laughs, “and it slightly backfired.”

And expresses his love of the Beatles:

“Recently I just bought my 50th anniversary of Sergeants Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I remember buying it in 1967 along with Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, but I haven’t heard it for 45 years. Even Jimi Hendrix sounds dated to me, as great as he was, but the Beatles’ music sounds like it was recorded last week. It’s just stood that test of time and they still sell for top dollar. Like Eric Clapton puts up a new album, 6 months later it goes down by 10 dollars. And I said over to a guy at ‘Hum On’ how come you still charge all this money for Beatles records and he said because they can… What can I say?

I used to get really smug, there was a young guy playing a Beatles album and I said ‘I bought that album in 1963!’ which is not very smug it just means that I don’t have as much time left as he has.” He laughs.

What was your perception of the Beatles back then?

“Back then they put Elvis Presley into the army and then they got ALL of these Italian guys and gave them Anglo-saxon names and they were dreadful. And the only thing we had Cliff Richard and the Shadows from England. And One day I was home I heard a Beatles song called ‘From Me To You’ and it sounded it like it was recorded in a 44 gallon drum it was just so rough and raw and I rang a friend and I just became a fan and then the album came out and I bought the album in September 1963. I recently bought George Harrison’s 'Living in a Material World' and I didn’t realise how good he was. Even the great jazz player, Les Paul said 'For every Beatles song he had a great riff,' The thing about the Beatles is that they didn’t have a virtuoso musician among them and yet they were so original. Especially when you heard it back then, it was just like: who is this? I was in a band and we used to try imitate them and after a while I said: let’s just stop singing Beatles songs.”

Al is a passionate and proud owner of 28 guitars, which he has collected throughout his life. For him it’s an addiction, “My girlfriend said to me after my second guitar: ‘If you buy any more, that’s it!’ and when I got up to 17 she kicked me out.”

Al is making plans to travel to New York in the near future to explore and to buy some more guitars! He explains to me that this is because they are cheaper to buy over there than it is over here in Australia.

Thank you Al for taking part in the project and I hope your travel plans come together soon!

100 Strangers Project - 78/100 by Michael Pung

Rainbow volunteers at a local yoga school. She was introduced to the practice through her doctor as a means of overcoming her struggles with bulimia and has since been devoting much of her time to it. 

She is currently completing the qualifications to become a full-time instructor with the aims of helping patients in psych wards as means of therapy.

Thank you for taking part in the project Rainbow!

100 Strangers Project - 77/100 by Michael Pung

"So why have you chosen me?" asked Nick.

"You seemed approachable and very casual."

"Thank you!"

This marked the very start of a quick, impromptu photo session with Nick.

Nick seemed very happy and cheerful to having his photo taken. He has family in Greece and is going away soon for a 6 week holiday. I was feeling a little bit rusty with taking portraits, but I wanted to try a technique to help. So I asked him to hold his hands out as if he was holding a giant Subway sub (something I picked up from learning portrait photography).

"Do you like Subway?"

"I do, as a matter of fact, I just had one for lunch!"

Nick helps run his family business and was on his way to take part in a course for his RCG certificate.

Thank you Nick for taking part in the project! Efcharisto!

100 Strangers Project - 76/100 by Michael Pung

Martina is a designer who I met at the Made festival at Carriageworks. It was an event where there were fashion pop-ups, a skateboard installation and a fashion show. She was hanging out with her friends when I approached her and was quite happy to have her photo taken for the project.

"What's something that you haven't done but would like to try?" I asked her.

"I would love to travel overseas on my own."

She has already done a bit of travel already with family and friends and on where she would travel to next, she said that she would love to visit South America one day. Martina is also a designer and showed me her Instagram on the type of designs she does. She enjoys what she does for a living. 

Thank you Martina for taking part in the project!

100 Strangers Project - 75/100 by Michael Pung

Aby had just left his house when I approached him. I asked him about taking part in the project and he said yes! He then told me that he also has a photography project as well and that he wanted me to take part in. He ran back to his house and came back with a card.

His project was for his girlfriend who is living in the Philipines and he wanted to show a bit of Australia to her by approaching strangers and photographing them holding a "Happy Birthday" card for her. Which I did.

"She tells me everything is the same for her birthday every year. So I wanted to do something special."

Aby is a chef and is in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend and wants to bring her over to Australia soon.

Thank you Aby for taking part in the project!

100 Strangers Project - 74/100 by Michael Pung

So I was walking around Surry Hills both to check out some clothing shops and also to find a stranger for a photo. I was walking up from Central Station and at this point had already missed some opportunities. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a stylish young lady with extravagantly curly hair. I had to approach.

Her name was Giselle and she comes from Iran. She was on her way to catch a bus and only had time for a few quick shots. But of course she was delightful in front of the camera.

Thank you Giselle and hope you caught your bus!

100 Strangers Project - 73/100 by Michael Pung

Max was practicing some yoga poses out near the shoreline at the Botanical Gardens. He has been travelling for 5 months. Initially he traveled with a girl he was with for 4 years, but somewhere along the way she broke his heart. "I came from a dark world... (but after travelling) I opened my eyes up to world. I used to go to the tattoo parlour when life was bad," he said as he showed me a tattoo that was imprinted on the other side of his bottom lip.

He said that he was trying to move on and is well on his journey with his solo travels and his experiences meeting inspiring people. He was happy to have his photo taken and performed some yoga poses for me to photograph. He appeared to be in quite a bit of pain whilst doing so - he was purposely stretching to improve his flexibility.

Looking forward, Max is on his way to Surfers Paradise and hopes to settle there a while.

"Happiness isn't what you look for, it comes from inside. Something you create for yourself."

Thank you Max for taking part in the project!