Strangers visit BYU in special library exhibit

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Mothers and daughters traveled hundreds of miles to Provo to be photographed by a complete stranger.

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An exhibit of  “30 Strangers,” the photography project and fundraiser of Justin Hackworth, will be in the Auditorium Gallery on level one of the Harold B. Lee Library through the month of July. A reception will be held in the gallery on July 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend.

The project first began in 2008. Hackworth had seen another photographer who took a photo every day for a year and he wanted to do a similar creative project. Hackworth thought it would be interesting if every person he photographed was a stranger. “30 Strangers” consisted of Hackworth taking photos of complete strangers every day for a month.

“What I liked about it was the idea of chance, that I had no idea who they were,” Hackworth said. “I had people sign up in the comments on my blog and picked them at random. It helped me get a good cross section of different kinds of people.”

After the first year, Hackworth wanted to find a way to make the photography sessions more meaningful for participants, so he and his wife came up with the idea of photographing mothers and daughters together. This is the third year of mother and daughter participants and Hackworth said he has tried to make the experience meaningful for each person.

“Justin was so friendly and sincere,” said Cher Anderton, who came from Seattle with her daughter Ella to be photographed. ” He spent time getting to know us and creating an environment with music and conversation that helped even a camera-phobe like me feel at ease. It truly was the whole package experience for my daughter and I.”

Instead of charging a sitting fee for the portrait sessions, Hackworth had participants make a donation to Provo’s Center for Women and Children in Crisis. He said two of the women he photographed had been in a women’s shelter at one time in their lives, so they felt a deep connection with what he was trying to accomplish.

Hackworth said he was touched by the project as he got to know complete strangers.

“People came from all over the United States and we even have some four-generation photos,” Hackworth said. “You know, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter. I met a lot of interesting people and have kept in touch with many as new friends.”

Danyelle Mathews traveled from Pasco, Wash., with 9-year-old daughter Abigail because she loved the vision of the “30 Strangers” project. However, she was surprised by results of the experience.

“One thing I’ve heard over and over again from people who have viewed the portraits from our session is how incredible it is that Justin was able to capture moments between my daughter and I that were genuine,” Mathews said. “Moments where even if you didn’t know us personally, you would feel as if you did. Justin is a genuine artist. I’m hoping to make it back down to view the exhibit in its entirety.”

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