BOERUM HILL — When photographer Jonathan Nesteruk isn’t in his studio, he travels around Brooklyn setting up his mobile studio on street corners to offer a free portrait to any Brooklynite willing to stop and strike a pose.
Nesteruk, a professional photographer, initially created the project to get himself out of the studio and onto the streets. The compelling characters he meets during these trips, however, are incentive enough, he says.
“When I’m out on the street most people walk right by me and some people seem even insulted that I ask them for a portrait, as if I’m wasting their precious time or trying to scam them,” Nesteruk, who lives in Boerum Hill, said. “But the people that stop all have something in common.
"They have an inquisitive spirit...an energy that I think really shows when you look at so many of these photos,” he added
Nesteruk, 30, originally took a couple dozen portraits to put in his portfolio, but as the number of portraits he took grew, so did his ambition. He has taken 600 portraits of random Brooklynites over the last year and a half — and his goal now is to reach 1,000.
Numbers aren’t everything, though, the photographer noted. Nesteruk travels to different parts of Brooklyn seeking interesting characters and a diverse collection of faces.
“I’ve tried to go all over Brooklyn in order to represent everybody,” Nesteruk said. “If I stayed in one neighborhood, you could tell.”
Nesteruk recalled a trip to Williamsburg in which he settled his equipment near a Hasidic neighborhood, hoping to add another face to his collection.
“I was out for hours and not a single person who was obviously Jewish stopped by,” Nesteruk said. “Finally, one guy who fit the look stopped.
"We talked for a while then he gave me his name and then decided against it at the last second. He said he was embarrassed to have his picture taken.”
After waiting another half hour, feeling defeated, Nesteruk packed up his gear and headed to a nearby subway station.
“Once I get down there, the same Jewish man I had talked to stopped me,” he said. “He said he wanted to have his picture taken but not outside in front of people he knew.”
Nesteruk quickly set up his kit in the middle of the subway station and photographed him.
“Then we took the train together and talked the whole way,” he said.
The collection, dubbed “Brooklyn Portraits,” can be seen on Nesteruk’s tumblr at brooklynportraits.tumblr.com.