employees: minute:72

12:35 pm
Starbucks: Newport Blvd & 17th: Costa Mesa

Today we set out to meet at lunch again. This time at a Starbucks in Costa Mesa. I arrived first and sat outside to wait for Eric. At a nearby table there was a member of the Starbucks staff interviewing someone for a barista position. As I waited, I couldn’t help but overhear the interviewee give his answers. His demeanor was upbeat as he told the employer about his life and made it sound like he would love his job if he was to be hired – all to present himself in the best light possible, of course.

Eric arrived about 5 minutes later. We went into the Starbucks and got a bite to eat, a coffee and checked the top newspaper in the rack. Our word today is “employees”.

I immediately thought of the job interview taking place in front of the store, but just as quickly ruled that out for how awkward that would be for them and us to shoot – plus it was only a potential employee.

We sat down, ate and discussed what we were going to shoot for the next 72 minutes. As we talked about our options, we figured it would be most interesting to shoot different employees at different businesses – the similarities and differences when put side by side could be really interesting. We looked around us and the employees at the Starbucks seemed like an obvious starting point, but we thought that would also be awkward since we had been hanging out eating for the past 10 minutes or so with them watching us. So out we went in search of shooting other employees at businesses nearby.

The first place we stopped in was a wheel shop. All types of chromed-out wheels lined the walls which we thought would make for an interesting background. So we asked the girl behind the counter if we could shoot her in that environment. Although we thought it was a great idea, she didn’t think her boss would approve of it and he wasn’t there to ask. She politely declined. On to the next business.

As we entered a donut shop, the girl behind the counter was cheerful but full of questions when we asked to take her photo. We had to explain our minute:72 project and how we had about an hour to shoot as many employees as we could. To get her to accept being a part of it we told her that we would be back the next week and bring her a print of the photo we took. She posed for a few shots and we were on our way to the next business.

As we left we knew we were going to be met by lots of questions and hesitation by people so we both practiced our pitch. As we walked we came across a delivery man in his minivan who, when asked, didn’t hesitate and allowed us to take his photo. Maybe it wasn’t going to be all that bad.

The next few places we went into gave us more practice with our pitch. We were met with more hesitation, lots of questions, some people declining to be photographed, but also some others who liked the idea to be part of our project and accepted the job of being our models. As we went from business to business Eric and I realized that this project was forcing us to do things we didn’t expect and that we normally weren’t comfortable doing. In an everyday environment we would never go up to complete strangers and ask for something – what probably made us feel most uncomfortable was the fact that rejection occurred almost half of the time.

For those who did accept our proposition, we took a few photos of them as they were during that day of work, and in return we promised them we would be back the next week with a print to show our appreciation. What we captured was a group of employees in the middle of their day at work. Some were having a busy day, others a slow day. No matter what type of day they were having, we could tell that each of these people had a definite connection to their job and it came through as being a large part of themselves. For within these photos, their expressions, the different environments and their clothing probably told their story even better than if they had been sitting down being interviewed.


8:30 am
Starbucks: PCH: Sunset Beach

This morning we knew we were going to meet, but with our schedules being busy lately, the time and place weren’t set in stone. So I headed to work down the coast and told Eric to call me when he was ready, and wherever I was when he called, I would pull into the nearest Starbucks and wait for him. I received his call as I was heading out of Seal Beach, and knew that the next Starbucks was in Sunset Beach where we did our very first minute:72. So I headed into Sunset Beach and waited – but only for a couple minutes because he was just right behind me.

Until now, we had done pretty good finding a new location each time we met – something we try to keep different so that we would have to work within different environments. But today we both didn’t have much time and we knew we wanted to get in another 72 minutes, so we had to revisit a previous location to fit it in our schedules.

The word today was “speaker”. It seems that nouns are a little harder to explore since they are pretty definite in their meaning. A loudspeaker. A person who speaks formally.

Originally I had thought that revisiting a location would give us an advantage since we already had been there and had scouted what was around, but because the inspiration word (speaker) was so different from last time (inventing) it turned out that we still found ourselves stumped at first. The only speaker nearby was an outdoor speaker on the Starbucks that wasn’t anything special. So we decided to walk and scout again with the word “speaker” in our minds.

We were coming up empty handed. There were no other speakers to be found – no audio speakers and nobody on their soapbox. As we talked, we found that our conversation turned from what a speaker is to what a speaker does. What is the purpose of one? What around us can show a message being projected, but then also being received by another? It seemed to get harder and harder as all we had to look at were weathered beach houses, cars cruising past us and the occasional passerby staring at us and wondering what were up to.

As we walked, we came across an out-of-place patch of flowers on the side of a parking lot. Within this patch there were tiny flowers and a few bees gathering their pollen. As we witnessed that, I told Eric about a story I heard on NPR the previous week (read or listen to it here) where scientists just found out that bees are not only drawn to the shapes and colors of flowers, but they also can sense an electric charge that they give off and are drawn to. As I told him this story, we both looked at the flowers and noticed their speaker-like shape and the way they spoke to the bee in their own way and how the bee responded to them.

We instantly knew this illustrated our concept, so now we had to capture that. I asked Eric if he could capture a close-up of a bee coming in to a flower. Eric, as always, was game and said that he never tried that before. So for the next 15 minutes, which was all the time that was left, he followed bees around trying to anticipate their next move. It turned out harder than we thought since focus, unpredictable flight paths and how close he was to the bee made capturing the right image very difficult within such a short amount of time.

Many photos were captured within that last 15 minutes. After going through all the photos, there was one image that stood out and spoke to us. One lone plant proclaiming its message through its trumpet-like flower as loud and brilliantly as it could and one bee listening to that message and responding by coming in to take it up on its call.