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posted by Jeff Bowen alias jeffcbowen on Friday 24th of April 2015 08:11:19 PM

I was wandering around Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre in downtown Toronto. It is a beautiful, modern building with lots of glass and interesting light. It provides 8 floors of space configured for individual study, group project work, tutoring, and just plain “hanging out” between classes. I’ve taken a few of my Strangers photos in this building and thought I’d give it another go since the chilly winds had gotten to me. I had spotted a corridor on one of the study floors which was open at one end with natural light reaching the entry but fading to darkness as the natural light fell off. The corridor was lined with doors for group study rooms. Modern educational approaches (in Canada at least) emphasize group projects. I think this is a good thing because we live in a collaborative, interconnected world and teamwork is more the norm in the workplace now. I saw two young women sitting facing the windows and all I could see was their backs. They had their laptops going but had taken a little break to chat for a moment. I decided to take a chance and approach one of them, relatively sight unseen. Meet Tara. When she turned around to hear my project request I was stunned by her amazing eyes. She seemed open to the project from the get-go but her friend Erica gave the push – even if it was not needed. I explained my idea and Erica said she’d look after our things so I dropped my coat and hat and shoulder bag on a chair and off Tara and I went to the mouth of the corridor. I said she could give any expression that felt comfortable as I was going to take a few photos so if she wanted to do smiling for one and thoughtful for another, that would be fine. Tara was very comfortable in front of my camera and eager to make sure things went the way I wanted. We took a quick look at the first few photos and I could see that this was working out well. I suggested we go to a different entryway to this maze of corridors in case the light was a bit different and we called out to Erica that we were just going around to corner for a moment. She laughed and waved. Photos taken, we returned to Erica and chatted. Tara is from Ottawa, the nation’s capital, and is a third year Psychology major. She had come to Toronto three years ago for university and views it as “the land of opportunity” in comparison to Ottawa which she said is good if you are interested in working for the federal government but not for other opportunities. I explained I’ve had my share of psychology courses in preparation for my own career and she said she and Erica were studying for a Neuropsychology exam this afternoon. I know something about that and it was fun to connect. Her goal is to go on and do graduate work and become a therapist. Well, well, well. That’s what I was before retirement. Another piece of the “small world” experience. Erica was laughing. When I asked what she does in her spare time she said she’s done some modeling but not on a professional level. “Aha. NOW I understand why you were so comfortable in front of my camera!” She went to on to say “I don’t have any hobbies per se. I’m a relationship person and I really like people. You could say my hobby is my friendships, coffee dates, and maintaining my connection with friends.” I told her she seems to have chosen the right field for the kind of person she is. When I asked Erica how she sees her friend Tara she said “A combination of hard-working and carefree.” An interesting combination. When I asked Tara what her reaction had been when I, a stranger, approached her with my photo project request she said “Oh, that? I’m an open book and my first thought was ‘What can I do to help you out?’ Oh, and it was the perfect way to put off studying for a few minutes!” How’s that for the perfect Stranger encounter? Thank you Tara for taking a few minutes to meet and for helping me out with my 100 Strangers photo project. You are #785 in Round 8 of my project. Good luck on the exam! Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by the other photographers in our group at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page.



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  • Published 06.30.22
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