I saw her walking up Yonge Street in downtown Toronto pulling a small suitcase and looking at Google Maps with a puzzled expression. I stopped to ask if I could help and she was grateful. The address seemed funky and the pin on the map did not make sense but I told her I suspected the address must but just up the street a bit. The business she was seeking had the word “Agency” in it and I jumped to the conclusion – based on her attractiveness and the suitcase – that it was some kind of modeling appointment. I was wrong. Suddenly I came to my senses and asked if she would be game to join my Human Family photography project and she was happy to. Meet Adia.

Being in the midst of a sidewalk crowd but just steps from a dingy loading dock I have used in the past to get out of the crowd and find sheltered light, I suggested the short walk and warned her that it was a grungy spot but would support a good portrait. She didn’t mind. After stowing our things nearby and switching lenses, I positioned her for the photos. Just then, the deserted loading dock became Grand Central Station. A truck appeared from the bowels of the building complex and we stepped to the side as it came out. It was followed by a car, then another car. Soon we were watching a parade of about 6-8 vehicles slowly exit the lane. I have no idea where they kept coming from and we stood there in awe, joking about the poor timing. It was really like watching a hundred clowns climb out of a car. Through it all, Adia was patient.

I learned her name is Nigerian and that her parents are from Nigeria. She grew up in Ivory Coast until the age of 8 but she and her parents lived in Dallas Texas since then. I didn’t detect that deep southern accent I would have expected but I did detect the southern warmth and friendliness.

Cavalcade of vehicles concluded, we returned to the laneway and completed the photos. Adia seemed very comfortable in front of my camera and doing the photos was easy. We then stepped to the sidewalk to get acquainted and I found out that Adia is currently a student at the Berklee School of Music in Boston but is in town on a visit and will continue to nearby Peterborough to visit a friend. My wife and I walked past the Berklee School of Music on a visit to Boston just a few months ago which I mentioned to Adia. She was glad I knew of it. In a moment of my own classic clumsiness I said “I think that university is really famous. You must be REALLY good.” Kinda dumb. What’s she gonna say? She could either lie and say she isn’t or be led into complimenting herself. We both laughed at the awkwardness of it but she shyly agreed that she’s good. She’s a vocalist but, as I learned later, she is multitalented.

The greatest challenge she has faced in life? “I guess that would be moving away from my parents for university. I’m an only child and leaving my parents and going to Boston was a huge change.” I asked what helped her with that difficult adjustment and she said “I had a great roommate and once I started making friends everything got a lot easier.” Her goals in life? “To perform, for sure, and use my voice for music. Beyond that, I want to make a difference in the world. I believe music is the universal language and I want to use it to spread peace in the world.” I admired her bold goals and told her so. Her message to the world? She replied “Be more open. Trust and be free.” I told her how much I appreciated the openness and trust she had shown me when we met on the street corner and I asked her to be part of my project.

Adia struck me as a remarkable person. She was open and friendly and had a sparkle that would be hard to define. Her idealistic attitude toward life is far more than a philosophy, as I learned when I visited her website ( You can her her singing here: Her talents are many and her vision is broad. She does loads of volunteer work and in fact some modeling (I shouldn’t be surprised) and she is Miss Black Massachusetts 2015! Perhaps our time together was too short or she was just modest, but my head was spinning when I got home and read about this remarkable young woman of 22. You can find out more about her here: Adia told me how much she liked the project and the way it combines art (the photography) and humanism (connecting strangers).

The world is full of fascinating people and you never know who you are going to meet next when you have your camera around your neck and are willing to meet a stranger and ask them to be part of your project.

Thank you Adia for taking the time to meet and join The Human Family project. I know you are going to continue to make a big, positive mark on the world and I wish you success in your mission. I hope you figured out that funky address you were searching for.

This is my 100th submission to The Human Family Group on Flickr.

You can view more street portraits and stories by visiting The Human Family.

Follow-up: Adia wrote a nice email to thank me for the photos which she thought were great. She liked the write-up and gave me warm wishes for my continuing project.

Posted by Tagged: , portrait , stranger , street , Toronto , The Human Family , Adia

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