After shutting down my nonprofit at the end of 2021, I asked myself how my life would change if I knew I would die in a year. The answer was clear as day: I would drive to all of the lower 48 US states, ask 1,000 strangers for life advice, and photograph them. That, and spending more time with the people I love.
Starting in May of 2022, I lived in my Toyota Camry for 12 weeks straight while driving to all of the lower 48 US states in pursuit of photographing 1,000 strangers after asking them for a piece of life advice. The journey challenged every aspect of who I was. Talking to strangers was way out of my comfort zone, I had never lived in a car before, I quit my job, and I used a combination of my entire savings, Patreon, and a personal loan to fund the cost of it all. Sleeping in rest areas, casino parking lots, Walmarts, and occasionally on friends' couches around the country, I planned my next destination each morning. My days were spontaneous which was perfect for the serendipity I was looking for in meeting strangers.The end result is a series of 1,000 black-and-white portraits of people across America, each of whom shared a personal learning in their lives. Viewers experience an inevitable pattern of universal keys to living a life well lived.
In a time when divisiveness is more prevalent than ever, this series also seeks to show that despite our races, genders, locations, and more, we have more in common with the strangers around us than we think. The photos were made on a medium format film camera, and the subjects were told to pose however they felt most comfortable.
"I wish I wouldn't have worked as hard and as many hours. I missed out on a lot of things. When I got sick, I lost everything, but having nothing is when I got more than I ever had in my life. I swear to God. I'm homeless, I have no car, but I never sleep in the street, and I always have a couple of dollars for beer every day. Having less is more, I'm telling you. The biggest thing in the world you can have is human connection. Without somebody else to live with, nobody would want to be here."
"It's not what people say— it's how you respond. A lot of times, we are reactionary. Sometimes we react the wrong way and wish that we could take it back."
"Never believe a liar."
"Take your time in finding a life partner. Don't let the sex cloud your judgment about a person, and don't rush into marriage. They should be your best friend over everything else."
"I'm 46 years old, and I have four daughters. My oldest daughter is 24, she just got married a year and a half ago, and she's making us grandparents. Yesterday I was down at the creek with my pregnant oldest daughter and my son-in-law. My second oldest daughter is 20, and her first boyfriend came with us for the first time and he's all nervous, right? I just kept finding myself looking around and thinking about how amazing this time of my life is. I kept reminding myself to slow down and enjoy it. When I think about when we were all younger, I wish that I had taken the time to enjoy a million other moments. There were so many moments when I was caught up on my phone or caught up on something else, you know? And now here's my daughter at 24 and pregnant, and it's just amazing."
"Enjoy life to the fullest while you can."
"At 25 years old, I wondered if I was doing the right thing with my life. After finishing undergrad and grad school in Pittsburgh, I looked at a paper map and decided I was going to move to San Francisco. This was before the days of Google Maps, and I had never been there. After living there for a while, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then to New York, and then one day, I packed up my dog in my car and moved to Austin. Six months later, I'm at a bar with a friend who goes up to a man and says, "Hey, I think you need to meet my friend," pointing to me. He and I exchanged numbers, and I actually said, "Oh, I have to go now." I thought there was no way he was going to call me, but he did, and in January, it will be 12 years together. When I think about what I would tell my 25-year-old self right now, I would just tell her not to stress. Everything is going to be okay. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other one day at a time, and you'll be okay."
"Just keep riding. I’ve been riding since I was 18, and now I’m 70 years old. It gives me peace of mind when I’m on the road. I have to stay focused, and it gives me a sense of clarity. Nothing else matters when I’m on the road."