I saw her and her friend taking a “selfie” with the cell phone on the sidewalk in Toronto’s Kensington Market area. I stopped to ask if they wanted me to take the photo for them. They were grateful. Looking around, I thought to make use of the graffiti that is abundant in this unique neighborhood and suggested we take a few steps into a nearby laneway to make use of a painted wall as a background.

They cautiously followed me and I suddenly realized they might be nervous at having handed their smartphone to a stranger who was now walking them into a laneway. I decided to keep talking and hold the phone in the air to make it clear I wasn’t trying to run off with it. (This may not have been necessary but I did think I detected some uncertainty and hesitation on their faces.)

Showing them the wall, I invited them to pose to that the afternoon light would fall onto them as they stood in the shade of the laneway. They liked the final result and I explained I’m a photographer and knew this would be a good location for a photo. I introduced myself and asked if it would be ok for me to take a few photos for my Human Family project in the same location, using my camera. Meet Soojeong and Jeremy.

They gave hesitant consideration to my request and consulted back and forth in Korean. Jeremy seemed to be doing most of the explaining to Soojeong and I realized there was a language barrier. Showing them my contact card helped (it often does) as did my statement that I felt Soojeong would make an excellent subject but that I would also photograph the two of them together. Clarifying that there would be no cost and that it is a learning project gained their consent and I set my camera for the portraits.

Soojeong seemed shy and Jeremy stood by as I photographed her. He was translating and clarifying my instructions which simply invoved explaining where I wanted her to stand and to look into the lens of my camera. Soon Jeremy was agreeing to hold my reflector for me once I determined it would improve the photos. I moved to the wall behind us, also painted, and discovered the light was a bit better and the colors more suitable. I finished off with a double portrait.

I learned that Soojeong is 25 and is visiting Canada from her native Korea. Jeremy, also Korean, is living in Halifax on Canada’s east coast. They have not known each other for very long. They were introduced by friends and have been using long distance phone calls to get acquainted. When Soojeong came to Canada a few days ago Jeremy came to Toronto so they could meet face to face to further their relationship. They have been in Toronto for just a couple of days and will be visiting nearby Niagara Falls, one of the wonders for the world, tomorrow. They were hoping for good weather for that visit.

Soojeong has completed university in Korea and is engaged in some post-graduation travel before starting a career. Her field is Modern Dance. I asked if the television reality show “So You Think You Can Dance” has reached Korea. It’s one of my wife’s favorite tv shows. Evidently, it has not. Jeremy told me he is looking for work but is planning to volunteer for the Canadian military. He feels it can provide him career training and/or educational opportunities which will make it easier for him to get into the workforce after he military service.

Thank you Soojeong and Jeremy for an interesting cross-cultural conversation and for participating in The Human Family. I hope your relationship grows and I wish you both luck in your chosen careers. I hope the cell phone photo and the ones I am sending from my camera will serve as souvenirs of a pleasant chance encounter in Toronto’s Kensington Market and will document the early stage of a happy relationship.

This is my 20th submission to the Human Family group.

To see more project street portraits and stories please visit

Posted by jeffcbowen


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