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

craigslist encounters kremer johnson 17Courtesy of Kremer Johnson

  • 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 $20 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 $20 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.

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

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

The simple ad stated that interesting people were needed as portrait subjects, that they would be compensated $20 per hour, and that Johnson and Kremer would come to them at their convenience.

The simple ad stated that interesting people were needed as portrait subjects, that they would be compensated $20 per hour, and that Johnson and Kremer would come to them at their convenience.

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

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

"About ten people into it, we realized it was a good project," Kremer told Business Insider.

"About ten people into it, we realized it was a good project," Kremer told Business Insider.

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

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

Working with that many respondents took some coordination.

Working with that many respondents took some coordination.

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

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

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

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

That could be their place of business ...

That could be their place of business ...

... their home ...

... their home ...

... or somewhere the subject practices a hobby or craft.

... or somewhere the subject practices a hobby or craft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I excepted there to be some serious assholes, like, 'Let's get this over with and give me my money,'" Kremer said.

"I excepted there to be some serious assholes, like, 'Let's get this over with and give me my money,'" Kremer said.

But he said that was never the case.

But he said that was never the case.

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

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

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

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

Kremer said he's photographed complete strangers before.

Kremer said he's photographed complete strangers before.

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

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

"It's invasive," Kremer said.

"It's invasive," Kremer said.

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

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

"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.

"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So working it into different locations was a challenge.

So working it into different locations was a challenge.

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

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

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

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

Kremer said she was one of his favorites to shoot.

Kremer said she was one of his favorites to shoot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the photographers' website, "character-based portraits and narrative-driven scenes are their thing."

According to the photographers' website, "character-based portraits and narrative-driven scenes are their thing."

Source: Kremer Johnson

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

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

But if they didn't, that was OK.

But if they didn't, that was OK.

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

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

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

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

"In the end, it's about who everyone is," Kremer said.

"In the end, it's about who everyone is," Kremer said.

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

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

He said the majority of them are appreciative.

He said the majority of them are appreciative.

They just liked to be a part of it.

They just liked to be a part of it.
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