NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A photographer in Nashville spends time in public spaces about once a week, approaching strangers and offering to take photos of them for free for 60 seconds.
She has penned the project “60 Second Strangers” and posts stills and videos of the shots on her social media platforms, alongside a story of the person(s) she meets.
“Overall, the reaction is very apprehensive. It’s very, ‘Who are you, why are you coming up to me?’” explained photographer Ali Miller. “I always give them my card and I always show them my Instagram to show them that I’m legit. And the question is always in some way shape or form…‘What’s the catch?’ And that’s the best part is that there is no catch. It’s completely free.”
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Miller takes 60 seconds to introduce and meet those she approaches and then she takes photos for another 60 seconds.
“It’s gotten me out of my comfort zone with photography in a way that I never would have been capable of doing, even a year ago,” said Miller. “I’m walking up to strangers, and trying to connect with them is very scary, but it’s so rewarding because being able to make that connection with somebody is absolutely incredible.”
One mother who Miller photographed explained how much the shoot meant to her.
“She messaged me after and she was like, ‘We’ve never done a family photo shoot. That was the first time, and we’ve never had pictures of all of us together.’ She was like, ‘thank you.’ And that for me, I’m like, that me being uncomfortable, me being nervous, that just made it worth it.”
“[It] is always so shocking to me how many families, how many couples don’t have professional photos taken of them because we all have these smartphones with these amazing cameras on it, but not a lot of people have actually had a professional photographer with a real camera,” explained Miller.
She admitted when she started the project she did not know where it would lead and was just trying to meet people, do something different and push herself out of her comfort zone as an artist.
“The reason why I got so into photography was because it allowed me to learn people’s stories in a very vulnerable way,” said Miller.
“My grandpa, who passed away in 2019, he was a nature and traveling photographer,” explained Miller. “So from the time I was very little, he would take me to the creek behind his house and we would take pictures of bugs and rocks and all of that and so I was introduced to photography at a very young age.”
After 10 years in the service industry, most recently as a bartender, Miller decided to take her photography business full time at the start of 2021. “It’s been a really big year,” reflected Miller, who said the project was meant to push her out of her comfort zone.
Although the “60 Second Strangers” project just started, Miller said it already proved worth her time as she has met families, sets of friends or even individuals out for a walk in one of Nashville’s parks.
“The biggest thing that I’ve loved is how happy it makes people,” she explained. “Like, it sparks this joy for people that have, you know, don’t know me, don’t know the people that are in the photos and people will message me and comment and be like ‘this just made my whole day.’”
After a more than a year in a pandemic, she said she hopes her project will continue to bring smiles to those she photographs and those who see the final product.
“I think the world is now at a place where we are starting to reintroduce human connection with people we’ve never met,” Miller continued, “It’s funny, I’ve never thought about any of this until this project, but this project is coming at a perfect time where we’re starting to learn how to trust each other again.”
To see Miller’s work or contact her, click here to see her Instagram page.