I almost passed up a great encounter today …
… I wasn’t in the best of moods when I first saw Paul – my 3 year old son had been playing up for the last 2 and a bit hours and we had finally given up on the rest of our plans for the day and decided to go home instead. My wife was the one that pointed Paul out to me whilst we were waiting for a metro (Newcastle underground) and another day I might well have walked straight up to him but today I just wasn’t in the mood.
20 minutes later however, after a quiet relaxed journey I had calmed down and felt much happier and when Paul (and the person he was with – Christine) got off the train I took the fairly sudden decision to ask him and had to run to make sure I got off the train before the doors closed. A short jog to catch him up and as soon as I asked him he agreed, laughing because he had already been asked for a photograph today. At this point Christine suggested that I take a shot of him in the hearse or the coffin saying that they were just a couple of minutes away – this sounded like a cool idea so I agreed and off we went. The hearse is the family run-around, for no reason other than that Christine has always wanted one and whilst trying to haggle the seller down the deal was eventually made when he offered to chuck in a coffin as a sweetener ;).
When we got back to their house Paul invited me in and offered me a beer (Guinness, excellent) which was unbelievably friendly of them given they didn’t know me from Adam and then he disappeared for a minute to put on some black lipstick and complete the look. He then stepped into the coffin and held the pose while I took a photo. This was great for my story but not the shot that I was after so we stepped outside so I could take a cleaner shot. Just as Paul was about to step outside though Christine pointed out that he wasn’t fully dressed and held out the studded collar for him to really complete the look.
Paul repairs cars by trade and informed his employer right from the off that the piercings stay and that if he had any accidents as a result then that was his problem.
With hindsight I now massively regret not asking Christine to be in my project as well – I stuck to my guns at the time by only photographing Paul (being my original target) but the encounter right from the off went in a direction that I could never have imagined and Christine was an equally important part of the whole thing. Paul and Christine attend (and host I think) many events raising funds for the Cats Protection League and as part of her line of work (Fiendish Fusion and Bellydance From The Darkside) she moves in a circle of Zompires – a cross between Zombies and Vampires. She gave me a business card with her facebook page but I never thought to ask permission to post it here – if Christine gets in touch though and agrees then I will include it later as it includes many photographs of both Christine and Paul and the Happy Hearse.
The obvious question given Paul’s style was what his music interests were (although I did ask if his style was music based or simply his fashion) and he listed a few artists that I’d never heard of but did include The Cult so some common ground there and checking out Rob Zombie he’s perhaps not that far removed from my tastes either.
Christine and Paul live with two rescue cats Pansy and Gummy – the first was very friendly and wandered over for a stroke almost immediately but Gummy was more cautious, probably justifiably so as she is sadly called gummy for the obvious reason and is missing her teeth.
Paul told me a great story about a time that they were dressed as Jesus and Satan and a little old lady with a walking stick walked up to them, said “you look fantastic” and carried on her merry way. He contrasted that with the *******s late at night that “can’t hold their beer” and sometimes make unpleasant comments. In his own words “we’re not doing anybody any harm” and indeed looking at the photos on Chrtistine’s facebook page they are certainly outlandish on a frequent basis but it’s all harmless fun.
Paul, Christine – thank you very much for taking part in my project. You went further than any other “stranger” that I have approached – you invited me into your home, plied me with beer, gave me my first insight into the world of zompires, and you were so friendly – equally happy to talk about your interests and mine.
PS: I keep banging on about this but yet again some strong links formed between my strangers. Paul and Christine know my #20 Jez who has compered some of their events and they also have visited the tiny micro brewery that I visited last Thursday and vaguely recognised my 54th stranger Lizzie.
This picture is #55 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page