NOWportrait & the people of Chinatown & Soho

Last Sunday we held our second NOWportrait London meet up. It was wonderful to meet new people – those who’d come along to take part in NOWportrait, and all of the people we met as we walked through the streets of Chinatown and Soho. And there were challenges! It can be very nerve wracking to approach a stranger and begin a chat and one of the most fantastic things about the meet ups is being with like-minded people who are enthusiastic and supportive and doing the same thing.


Sophy – NOWportrait by Lucy Williams
Sophy picks up the newspapers for her dad on the weekends, she was in a hurry because she was rushing to pick up her son from Chinese school. I asking her for her photo because she looked so bright and cheerful in her shades. To be honest, I could see she was in a rush and I thought she’d say no. I’m really glad she didn’t.

Come and meet the strangers we met as they get posted in the Facebook group and join in the conversation with the NOWportrait community. And when you’re out and about this week take a risk and say hello to someone new! Share who YOU meet in the Facebook group, and on Twitter or Instagram #NOWportrait.

And if you’d like to organise your own NOWportrait meet up where you live, drop us a line and we’ll support you to do that wherever you are.

If you like this post you might also like to see NOWportrait London meet up 1: Leather Lane/ Whitecross Street



NOWportrait inspires connections with strangers through photography

Hello and welcome to #NOWportrait!

I don’t know about you, but it struck me that we pass so many people by without even noticing them; neighbours, people in the local community, people we see in the same train carriage, every single day, for years. Maybe there’s a glance of recognition between each other, perhaps a shy hello, but how often do we start a conversation?  Maybe we’re heading to a future where our daily chats with strangers only ever take place in online communities like Twitter or Facebook.

NOWportrait aims to change that future, one stranger at a time…

NOWportrait is based on a simple idea; meet a stranger, have a conversation, photograph a portrait, capture their story and share!

The project was launched on March 8th 2014 and during that weekend 37 photographers took part and met and photographed over 70 strangers, all over the UK and as far away as Iraq.

Meet some of those people below…



“This is Kenneth enjoying the glorious sunshine at his beach hut in Bournemouth. He’s 90, a widow – he’s lost 2 wives, one at the age of 23…. I was the first person he spoken to all day! So handsome, so dignified – so pleased I met him!” – NOWportrait by Kate Williams


“Meet Billie. I thought she was a stranger but it turns out that she lives on my road so now we are friends. What Billie likes most in this world is cake so there are two things we have in common…” – NOWportrait by Lisa Devlin


“Meet Carlos & his parrot Leo. Leo is an 18 month old African Grey parrot and was out on his first ever walk. I met them in Crystal Palace Park where Carlos was introducing Leo to the great outdoors. Leo wasn’t such a fan of his red lead and was much more interested in trying to take it off rather than pose for his photo. Carlos was a little nervous about their first outing together but they were doing great. We actually created a bit of interest when I was taking their photo, I think other people in the park thought there was something special going on…not just a photographer photographing a stranger!” – NOWportrait by Katy Thomson


“Ian was playing passionately on bodhrán during a Scottish music jam at a local pub.” – NOWportrait by Neil Thomas Douglas


“Arsenal were playing and Jaiden and his great grandmother Jackie went up the park to play football because Arsenal is Jaiden’s favourite team. When I met them they were on their way back home for tea.” – NOWportrait by Lucy Williams


“John loves Parliament Hill Lido and goes as much as he possibly can. It felt like a warm summers day but the water is still a nippy 9c and it’s johns first day swimming without his thermal boots and gloves” – NOWportrait by Hannah Elbourne


“This is Julie, she works at the venue where we shot our first wedding of 2014. She is beautiful. She is brave. She has made my heart glad that I asked if I could take her photo.” – NOWportrait by Charis Warrell


“Liz and John had just dropped off their grandchildren and were going for a walk before a meal out with their family in the evening. Liz had ice cream on her face, John tried to clean it off but she wasn’t worried about it, because it would tell you something about the day.” – NOWportrait by Camera Hannah


“I walked out my house looking for a stranger. directly opposite me was a young woman sitting on the steps. I asked her if she’s be photographed and all about the project. She said it sounded great and she would love to. Her sister worked in art events within the mental health. Madeleine was locked out her house. Turns out she has lived opposite me for four years and we have never before seen each other. I’ve met a stranger and a neighbour.” – NOWportrait by Fiona Yaron-Field


“I approached Pranavi while she was doing her shopping in Wellington.” – NOWportrait by Becky Joiner


“This is a portrait of a member of the Iraq army that act as security at high level buildings including the UN Compound here in Erbil, Iraq. I have been dying to take a photo but always been told no, until now. Unfortunately, because I don’t speak any Kurdish I couldn’t even get his name.” – NOWportrait by April Coetzee


“This is Cerys, my little boy Toby (he’s 5) took her photo and asked what would be the one thing she could change in the world and she said cancer because her friend is fighting it at the moment” – NOWportrait by Toby Williams


“Here is Martin Wesley-Veale who was playing an electronic keyboard in the tunnel at Braithwaite Street. Imagine a way more upbeat Joy Division. Anyway, such a nice bloke. He didn’t realise London was actually enduring a tropical heatwave as he’d been in the shade all day. – ME: “How shall I describe you?” MWV: “I’m a musician. I play music.” – NOWportrait by Richard Chambury


“This is Janet from Ealing, West London. I met her at Paddington Station, I noticed her because of that wonderful bright red jacket. She was watching everyone go by and told me she liked to look at what people were wearing, that it was a such shame everyone dressed in such drab colours. Janet was waiting to meet a friend who was about to become a grandmother for the first time. Since Janet was already one several times over (she’s 81 you know!) she was going to give some advice on the matter. She was such a lovely bright eyed lady. If you don’t already know about the @NOWportrait project go check it out. I’m now addicted.” – NOWportrait by Katharine Peachey

Featured photographers:

Kate WilliamsLisa DevlinKaty ThomsonNeil Thomas-DouglasLucy WilliamsHannah ElbourneCharis WarrellCamera HannahFiona Yaron-FieldBecky JoinerApril Coetzee, Toby Williams, Rich FotoKatharine Peachey


How does NOWportrait work?

The concept is easy!  Meet a stranger + say hello + capture a story + take a portrait + share!

Anyone with a camera can take part, whether it be a camera phone, a compact camera, a dSLR or film camera. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, in fact our youngest participant is 5 and took his portrait on a children’s digital tablet.

NOWportrait is all about having a chat and making a connection with someone unexpected. Even if they say no to a photo you might find that you end up having an amazing chat – and that’s great!  If you do get a yes, have a chat whilst you take their photo and find out something interesting about the person you’re photographing.

Finally, share your photo with your stranger and let them know you’ll also be sharing it online in the #NOWportrait Facebook group

If you prefer to use Instagram (or another image sharing platform/ app), please do share there too!

Hashtag your photographs #nowportrait


Here’s what people are saying about their NOWportrait experiences…

OMG!!! It was one of the hardest/ most awesome things I’ve ever done!! I’ve read your posts and as momentum picked up towards the weekend I wanted to be part of it but probably only by ” liking” the Facebook page! And then I got it! And did it!! My heart swells/breaks when I look at the photo… and I cry! I don’t know if the tears are for me or him… totally unbelievable experience – Kate

My stranger said “thank you for emailing the photograph. I am on my way back home and guess what? First thing I will do on reaching is show this photograph to my husband. I love what you are doing. I’m happy that you approached me on the other evening'” I am so happy, I now totally get this project!” – Becky

Thank you for creating such an wonderful project! I’m totally inspired to go out and meet some more strangers. It was scary but so very rewarding ~ Zoe

It’s awesome! I absolutely love the thrill of asking someone if I can take their portrait and I am always amazed at the brilliantly interesting and sometimes little details you pick up from speaking with someone for the first time. Everyone i have asked has been so lovely and not at all put off by the idea. For me it doesn’t end this weekend I am going to continue taking peoples portraits, strangers who catch my eye for whatever reason ~ Kate


How did NOWportrait begin?

I’m Lucy Williams, I’m 41 and a wedding & portrait photographer  and I set up NOWportrait in February 2014.

I’d been shooting a stranger photography project for myself which I’d started started because I was petrified to do it! I knew the only way to conquer the fear was to face it head on. At first it was very scary and I walked past the first person I photographed 5 times before I plucked up the courage to chat with him. I quickly realised that meeting someone new was an uplifting experience and the sense of connection I got after chatting with someone, even for just 5 mins, was immense.

I began to share my stranger portraits in my Instagram gallery and received many comments from other people on Instagram saying they wished they were brave enough to meet and photograph strangers too.  I thought if there was a project that inspired people to do just that it would be brilliant.  And NOWportrait was born.

NOWportrait has grown to a small team of people including Richard Chambury, Cally Sheard and Kate Boswell and we are very excited about creating a space for people who are meeting and photographing strangers to connect with other people doing the same thing, all over the world.


What next?

NOWportrait is a growing community of people meeting strangers and sharing online in the Facebook group. We also hold regular meet ups for people to get together and share the NOWportrait experience.  And later this year (2014) there will be an exhibition and photobook of selected portraits taken during the launch of the project (March 8-10th) Both the prints and the book will be available to buy and all profits will be donated to support UK mental health charity MIND.


Why support a mental health charity and why MIND in particular?

I wanted to raise money for MIND because I experienced depression for most of my twenties and early thirties and I remember feeling like a stranger in my own life, and alone, even though I was surrounded by people who loved me.

Stephen Fry, President of MIND, talks about feeling loneliness in his blog post:

MIND provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

Taking 10 minutes to talk to a stranger could change someone’s life forever. And taking a creative risk, getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with a stranger could change yours.

The future…

NOWportrait aims to be a global community of people connecting with people through photography, with events to meet up with others and opportunities to raise money for mental health charities around the world.

How can I be involved?

Head over to the NOWportrait Facebook page and LIKE us.

Join the conversation in our NOWportrait  Facebook group

Grab your camera and join in the project for yourself. Share your portraits and stories with the community in the NOWportrait group  (and on your favourite image sharing apps like Instagram) Hashtag all your NOWportraits #nowportrait

And lastly, share the project with everyone you know, especially those who are up for a creative challenge, meeting new people and would love to shape a new future through photography.