Two photographers captured photos of complete strangers they met on Craigslist — and the photos are hauntingly beautiful

Courtesy of Kremer JohnsonThe duo behind photography studio Kremer Johnson turned to Craigslist when they were in need of photo subjects. Here’s what happened.
  • Photographers Neil Kremer and Cory Johnson turned to Craigslist to recruit complete strangers as photo subjects in their series “Craigslist Encounters.”
  • The ad simply asked for “interesting people to photograph” in LA for $US20 an hour in return.
  • The resulting portraits are hauntingly beautiful.

Photographing strangers is a necessity for many photographers. However, not many actively seek out complete strangers as subjects.

As a personal project, the duo behind LA-based photography studio Kremer Johnson sent an ad into the Craigslist universe asking for “interesting people to photograph” for $US20 an hour in return.

They initially wanted to photograph just one subject.

The resulting images, compiled into a photo series dubbed “Craigslist Encounters,” ended up featuring 65 complete strangers in intimate and unique settings.

Business Insider spoke to Neil Kremer about the series. Take a look at the portraits.


Photographers Neil Kremer and Cory Johnson originally set out to photograph just one subject through their Craigslist ad.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

The simple ad stated that interesting people were needed as portrait subjects, that they would be compensated $US20 per hour, and that Johnson and Kremer would come to them at their convenience.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Not long into the project, Kremer said they realised they wanted to go further with it.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“About ten people into it, we realised it was a good project,” Kremer told Business Insider.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

They eventually collected portraits of 65 people who answered their Craigslist ad.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Working with that many respondents took some coordination.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Once someone responded to the ad, the photographers would either email or call them to get a sense of who they were.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Then they would decide which location would be best to shoot at.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

That could be their place of business …

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

… their home …

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

… or somewhere the subject practices a hobby or craft.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Some subjects simply chose where they spent most of their time.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

The idea was to capture the subject in the environment that best spoke to their personality or character.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Many subjects let Kremer and Johnson decide where and what they wanted the shoot to be.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“I expected there to be some serious arseholes, like, ‘Let’s get this over with and give me my money,'” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

But he said that was never the case.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

And in fact, out of the 65 people they ended up shooting, Kremer said only three took the offered compensation.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“People just wanted to tell their story, and they wanted to be part of something, period,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Kremer said he’s photographed complete strangers before.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

When he first started photographing people on the street for a previous project, he said he got pretty nervous.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“It’s invasive,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said, in general, subjects are also a bit apprehensive at first, but they eventually warm up.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“If you ask questions and listen and then give them reactions and make them understand that you are listening, you’re gonna be met with open arms every time,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said getting people to talk was actually the easiest part of the whole project.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“Once you’re with them and you ask them personal questions, it was shocking how open people are,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

The hardest part of the project was tackling LA’s chaotic traffic to get to a shoot.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“Getting to that location at a specific time in Los Angeles, it’s just not that easy,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“To go 20 miles in LA is literally a couple hours,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

And no matter where they go, he said there’s a fair amount of camera gear and equipment to lug around.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said they wanted the lighting setup to be the same in each shoot.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

So working it into different locations was a challenge.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Like into a small bathroom to photograph a set of twins in a bathtub …

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

… or in the private mansion of a 62-year-old porn star and her husband.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Kremer said she was one of his favourites to shoot.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He also set up his gear in a convenience store in LA.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He and his subject, a realtor in the area, collectively decided to turn her into a “dirty ballerina.”

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Her clothes were muddied, and she wore an exasperated expression on her face.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Kremer said that people from all walks of life responded to the ad.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Most were creative types, working in music, art, and photography fields …

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

… but Kremer said their subjects occupied a variety of professions.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“There were definitely some accountants, bankers, doctors, but overall it was across the board,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said his studio, Kremer Johnson, is known for capturing humorous characters.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

According to the photographers’ website, “character-based portraits and narrative-driven scenes are their thing.”

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Source: Kremer Johnson


When people responded to the ad, he said he hoped they would fit that criteria.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

But if they didn’t, that was OK.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said he just wanted to find and tell individual stories.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

And tapping into the “whole ecosystem that revolves around Craigslist” was a good way to do that.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

“In the end, it’s about who everyone is,” Kremer said.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

Kremer said he still keeps in touch with many of this subjects.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

He said the majority of them are appreciative.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

They just liked to be a part of it.

Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

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