Neeka Matthews
Photo by the author


After growing up thinking all strangers could potentially lead to danger, completing an assignment given to me by a photography course, which included the requirement of talking to strangers, was out of my ease.


“Posso fare la tua foto?” I asked, “Di me? Sì!” the woman responded, as she giggled with an overwhelming feeling of adulation. I had just asked a woman I had not known, sitting solo outside on a bench, if I could take her picture.


To venture outside of your own comfort zone and see a new perspective from a different set of eyes is an experience that has crossed my very own path. When enrolling in the Street Photography course at FUA, I had not known what to expect as a newcomer to photography aside from casual portraits of friends and nature. Being asked to take pictures of people on the street, people I did not know and have never talked to before, was a request that presented a challenge.


What I have learned the most about living in Firenze and attending FUA is that the life I am used to living is far from what I would now be living in. This is not a negative factor, but rather a fresh insight into the real world – a world unlike my own. I would have never thought to ask strangers, not to mention who don't speak the same language as me, if I could take their portrait. I can now say that I have.


Although rejections were in the cards during my portrait requests for the assignment, I came across some incredible people. I encountered one gentleman, who first responded to my request in Italian, and then English. It turned out that he and his family were from Malta, the southern European island country, and they were in Firenze to visit his brother-in-law. Through his fluent command of English, I learned a bit about his past and his current life.


From being asked to take portraits of strangers for the initial goal of my class agenda, I had initially low expectations for a satisfactory completion. However, after stepping out of my comfort zone, I recognized that talking to people I never would have thought to talk to before was something I experienced as an achievement. This moment completely impacted my views of the new lifestyle I was tuning into, and also how FUA's educational perspective of accomplishment seeks to bring us beyond our normal routine and undertake something new.