What’s 30 Strangers

What is 30 Strangers?
A Justin Hackworth Photography project and fund raiser.

Since 2009, I’ve photographed 90 sets of mothers and daughters for a portrait project and fundraiser called 30 Strangers. I’m looking forward to this year’s project, which will start in June (2012 participants have already been selected). Each year, I make 30 portraits in 30 days. Each day of the project, I photograph a generation, a mother and daughter, people I’ve never met.

I donate my time for the sessions, and the participants make a donation to the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, our local women’s shelter serving victims of domestic violence.

As you’d expect, everyday working on the project is different, and that’s something I love about it. I photograph a mother and daughter, but sometimes they bring a granddaughter or a grandmother along and I make a portrait of three or four generations.

People also bring their histories with them, and the stories are never the same. Sometimes the mothers and daughters are the best of friends, sometimes there are some rough patches waiting to be healed. We certainly laugh during the session, and usually dance, and sometimes cry. It’s a privilege for me to capture something of their relationship, these generations, these women who are inextricably linked.

30 Strangers offers an exciting challenge to create something meaningful for every mother and daughter who participate. As a person, I love meeting these new people. As a photographer, I love being able to photograph them. I’m honored to have had hundreds of people request one of the 30 spots available each year. Strangers have flown in from all over the country to participate.

Five years ago, in 2008, the idea for 30 Strangers began. I heard about Bill Wadman’s amazing portrait project called Project 365 in which he did a portrait every single day for a year. People might think, “Hey, he’s a photographer. What’s the big deal about taking a portrait everyday?” But actually, it’s a very big deal to shoot and process a successful portrait every single day. It requires drive, creativity, awareness, consistency, and a lot of hard work.  And the thought of doing it for an entire year blew me away.

In 2008 I decided to give it a try for a month, and my goal was to photograph 30 strangers in the month of June. I put an ad on Craigslist and met 30 new people that month. The challenge for me was to make an interesting portrait of someone I’d just met, to keep the images diverse and still reflective of the person I was photographing. As always, my goal with portraits is to capture something completely authentic, something that reveals a truth about the person I’m photographing.

In 2009 we decided to expand the parameters of the project by photographing mothers and daughters and making it a fundraiser for our local women’s shelter, The Center for Women and Children in Crisis. This time I invited people to email me to sign up for the project on a first come, first served basis and I had filled all 30 spots in just three hours (thanks in large part to our friend Gabrielle, of DesignMom.com and Stephanie from Stephmodo.com, who helped spread the word)..


Pictured below are the images that were included in our 2009 exhibition.


The project began in 2008 when I photographed individuals. One a day, for the the entire month. That’s where the name 30 Strangers came. Care to see the work from previous years? Here are the links.



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Barett July 27, 2011 at 9:50 am


I just found out about this project. What a cool idea. Way to go. I reposted about it on my blog where I try and encourage others to get involved in philanthropy. Keep up the great work!



Lora Milian March 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been utilizing? I’m having some small security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any suggestions?


You're Lucky I Don't Have a Gun... June 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Ugh, I’m kicking myself for only just learning about this 30 Strangers Project. Maybe next year…

Really cool work. 🙂


Penaz October 3, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I want to know the criteria for being selected for your 30 strangers portrait project and would like to help. Would appreciate if you could give me details. Thanks.


Anonymous November 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

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seo January 13, 2013 at 6:15 am

Some truly interesting information, well written and loosely user pleasant.


Holly January 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Are you doing this project for 2014? I stumbled on your blog from Instagram and then this project. Very cool. I have a 96 year old grandmother I’d love to be photographed with as well as my own mother and 6 year old daughter. We have a great story!


justin January 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Holly,
I don’t know about the 30 Strangers project for 2014. I love doing it, but creatively, I feel like I’ve taken it as far as I can in its current form. I would love to figure out a variation of it, or what I’d really like to do, is to get a corporate sponsor, and do the project in somewhere like Nicaragua or Haiti. That doesn’t help you any, I know.

So to answer your question, it’s up in the air.

However, I’m always available to photograph you and the ones you love. If you’d like more info about regular portrait session pricing and how that all works, let me know and I’d be happy to give you more info.


janice martel May 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

i want to know about this project of you.. i want to help… please visit me at Strangers


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