I first encountered her in the main entrance of the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where a group of us were waiting for the place to open. She was obviously an outgoing type of person, as she struck up several conversations with different people, myself included. I found out that she had just walked from her hotel, and had a few hours to kill before her flight back home to California. She told me she was in town for a conference, and had to check out the famous prison before returning home.
The gates opened and the dozen or so of us filtered into the prison. About 15 minutes later I was shooting away, when she came upon me. She asked about my gear and it came out that she has a background in commercial photography. She wished me good shooting and off she went.
Sometime later, we crossed paths again and this time found out she had recently been for a ride on the Goodyear blimp. I thought, I know enough about her for my project, so the next time I see her I will bring it up.
It was a very hot and humid day, and as usual I wasn’t doing so well with the heat. On top of that I could feel a dreaded panic attack starting. I seem to get these now out of nowhere, and they are not all that pleasant to deal with, especially in public. I decided to head to the gift shop (air conditioned) to get water and try to calm down. This was when I bumped into her once again.
Now I had a problem. I had told myself that if I saw her again I would engage her, but I was now also in the midst of a panic attack. Persuading myself to take care of my issue first, I decided to ignore the project, focus on relaxing, and retreat.
One of the reasons for doing this project is to help restore stability to my mental health. It has been a struggle for years, but more so in the last year and a half. The project is partially aimed at putting me in uncomfortable situations, and forcing myself to deal with them. So with that in mind, I told myself that I just need to do it. I approached her told her about the project and said that considering what I already know about her, I just had to ask.
She enthusiastically said yes, and introduced herself as Steph. She then suggested a little room she had seen with some natural light. We chatted further and I found out that she has recently lost over 70lbs, and that she has a Keto themed Instagram page for inspiration to others to do the same.
As this point, I was becoming overwhelmed with my nerves, and I had trouble speaking, so I wished her a safe flight back home to California. We exchanged Instagram details and I scurried away to a dark, quiet place to relax. A few days later, she posted about being at the prison, and was nice enough to make mention of running into me. I don’t often get contact from my subjects afterwards, so I was happy to see that.