First Impressions

When I forget my newspaper or magazine on the bus or Rapid, I often end up staring at the people traveling with me or those in the nearby cars. Sometimes I make up little stories about them.

What's YOUR first impression?
We're keeping this idea going and you can be part of the experiment. Visit our First Impressions blog to give us your take on the photos posted there. We'll add new photos on a regular basis and periodically provide you information about the individuals we feature, so you can see how close (or way off) you were. Feeling brave, you can upload your own photo, too. JOIN IN >>
The woman with crooked lipstick, heavy perfume and dyed-red hair appears to be a lonely widow. She’d prefer to stay home, but gets on the bus every day because she hasn’t saved enough for retirement.

She stares back. I wonder what she thinks of me.

So, with a nod to an art piece by Lenka Clayton and James Price, I put on a social experiment of sorts with the help of photographer Billy Delfs, who set up lights and a background on Public Square and in the Warehouse District.

For nine hours, we talked to anyone who passed by or asked to be photographed. But we also wanted to capture a representative sample of who makes up downtown on a given day — a range of young and old, male and female, affluent-looking and those who appeared to be a little more rough around the edges.

We wanted a mix of races. We wanted to make sure we talked to someone with a dog and someone with a beer. We wanted someone yakking on their cell phone. We wanted locals and tourists. We photographed and interviewed about twice as many people than appear in this story.

We told people that we’d take their picture and ask them their first impression of someone else, but others would scrutinize them and give their own first impressions. It was shocking how many eager participants there were. Only two people in that nine-hour span walked away after hearing the ground rules.

The quotes often reveal as much about the person responding as those being scrutinized. They say a lot about who we are in Northeast Ohio.

Play along. We saved some basic information about each person photographed for the end, so you can see how close your assumptions are. Just look at the corresponding letters.

Roll your cursor over each small photo to see each person's comment. The red letters indicate people who both made a comment and were later commented on.
She looks confused. I don't want to say it, but I want to be honest: She has had a hard life and may have turned to drugs. She looks troubled but not dangerous. I wouldn't be afraid of her, but I am afraid for her. God be with her. God bless that poor lady.

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  He looks like he's a banker. Or maybe a lawyer. No, he's definitely a banker. He doesn't look friendly. He's not the kind of guy who would come up and just start talking to you. He's definitely a West Sider. I would not trust him.

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I'd be glad if I saw him on the street late at night. He's a powerful guy, and if he's around, no one is going to mess with you.

', 200)" onmouseout="hideddrivetip()">  He's worldly. He could talk about art, politics and music. He's a pretty sexy guy, and he looks intelligent, too. He's not only strong physically but mentally.

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We asked this man to look at his own photo a week later: “For some people, the idea of appearance isn’t important. But it’s really the way most people make their first impressions. I try to appear the way I would like the world to perceive me. It’s easy to look at pictures and make impressions, then when you look at yourself it’s shocking. It’s like, ‘This is what everyone else sees.’ Am I really that skinny? If I looked at my picture, I would think this person probably readsDetails magazine, watches Bravo on television, and that’s true even if I hate to admit it. I’m glad that I was talking on the phone and didn’t have to pose. Plus, it is hiding my bald spot.”
We asked our participants if they would provide some basic information about themselves: A. Denice Hunt, Westlake. Unemployed. Former waitress, insists Cleveland Magazine should rate The Claddagh Irish Pub at Legacy Village best restaurant in next month’s “Best of” issue; B. Franklin Canning, Columbia, S.C., here on business; C. Lisa Bridget, 35, Cleveland, assistant social worker; D. Alphonso Tidwell, 46, Cleveland, bounty hunter; E. Michael Clark, 50, Cleveland, sales supervisor; F. Jodi Dudek, 27, Cleveland, graphic designer; G. Arthur Owens, 28, hip-hop and R&B artist working full time at Arby’s until his big break; H. Omar Esquilin, 33, Cleveland, home remodeler who emigrated from Puerto Rico; I. Rob Rob,57, East Cleveland, postal worker, showed his ID to prove he wasn’t lying about his unusual name; J. Elena Muscutariu and Pia Kasseckert, 65 and 5 respectively, retired pharmacy worker from Germany living in Cleveland and vacationing grandchild who is still learning English; K. Lindsey Bower, 26, Cleveland, graphic designer who says she may look irritated because she got out of a 6-year relationship the day before being photographed; L. Mai-Kim Dang, 28, Cleveland, film student at Cleveland State who asked our photographer for his phone number. He hopes she calls; M. Lee Polk, 26, Cleveland, cook, was wearing a T-shirt that, fittingly, said: “Unless you wuz me, how can you judge me?”; N. Sean Gallagher, 12, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in town to see the AST Dew Tour of extreme sports; O. Garrick Liscomb, 39, University Heights, I.T. professional; P. Tonnie Alliance, Solon, regional director of distinguished events for the American Cancer Society; Q. George Woods, 42, Cleveland, works at the Animal Protective League and as a security guard. He knows he looks tough but he’s really a teddy bear; R. Lamonte Coulter, 43, Cleveland, chef for Jones Day, but he should be a stand-up comic with the way he had us cracking up; S. Lisa Brozewicz and Lexi, 22 and five months respectively, financial analyst and vizsla respectively; T. Charles Moss, 29, Lakewood, accountant who was happy to participate until we asked him not to finish his beer until we finished photographing him; U. Doug Martin, 23, Cleveland, bike messenger; V. Kevin Brooks, 32, Shaker Heights, program coordinator and founder of Keeping Everyone Young Successful; W. Georgene Gibson, 32, server at XO Prime Steaks; X. Jeremy Hank, 32, Rocky River, waiter; Y. Linda Henderson, 49, Akron, surgical technician; Z. John Plymak, 40, Lakewood, graphic designer who stood talking on his phone not knowing why we were taking his picture until he finished his phone call; AA. Jessica Pagan, 27, Cleveland, server.
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