Vicki and Vinnie and John


Late last week, even though the temp was pushing 95+ around noon, I got myself out of the office and hit the street with my camera. Across the bridge from New Brunswick is an older town, Highland Park.

Highland Park sits on the banks of the Raritan River and came into legislature around 1905. I’ve driven through it’s quaint downtown (Raritan Ave) a few times, and noticed the many the kosher delis and restaurants. Still, I never explored it on foot, so I thought I’d take a walk and see what I could find.

Because it’s an older town, it makes for a pretty interesting photo walk. But it really got interesting when I stopped for lunch at Dish Cafe.

See what I mean?

I was seated at the counter, Rangefinder magazine opened in front of me, the 50D slung over the chair. Dish is a small place but was nicely busy this lunch time with a few people working the tables and the counter. I was on the end with some beautiful natural light streaming through the big window. Vicki was hovering about. As I overheard bits of conversation, I could tell she hadn’t worked there long. “About two weeks,” she said when I asked. Then she asked me what I was shooting today. Just some stuff for my personal portfolio, I said. That usually beats “Dunno. Whatever I can find.”

It wasn’t long before I asked Vicki if I could take some shots of her. The blue eye shadow, the blue eyes, pale skin and freckles, the natural light…..

Between shooting Vicki, the great conversation had with one of the other gals who is also a photographer (and if you see this post, drop me your email so I can see your work) and the tasty basil chicken salad, I could have stayed there all afternoon. Had to get moving though. But not before Vicki became #51 of my 100 Strangers project.

I didn’t expect to shoot anymore…I expected to just hustle my way back to the office. And then….

“Hey…take our picture!”

I was walking past one of the coffee shops, past two men sitting outside under an umbrella, drinking coffee (remember I said it was 95+. Gotta love that.) Camera was hanging off my shoulder, just in case. Well, just in case stopped by.

I looked over, sized them up. Tried to figure out the accent. “Why should I take your picture?” I said. I knew I was going to, just thought I’d have some fun.

“Because I have a great story and I want to tell it to you!”

That’s all I had to hear. “OK,” I said. “But I have to shoot you both.”

Turns out Vinnie came here from Turkey. (I thought the accent was Russian.) And he did have a good story to tell. Buzz cut and glasses, built like a spark plug, he’s a natural story teller. After talking his way onto a Greyhound bus (be damned if I could remember from where he told me..) he made it to New York 20 years ago with $2 in his pocket. He and his buddy slept in Central Park for three days and ate .69 cent hot dogs a couple of times a day. Then he overheard someone speaking Turkish so he introduced himself to a guy name David. David owned apartments in Brooklyn and gave Vinnie a job as a general handyman. He worked his way up, married and moved to Jersey, now owns a few condos and apartment building in and around Highland Park. Worth more than a million, he told me.

“I’m the American success story! You can do ANYTHING here if you don’t mind working.”

Like I said, Vinnie is a born talker, a born story teller. Quick with the smile, animate in his actions. Doesn’t seem to stop moving even when he’s sitting still.

Sweat was streaming down my back, but all I really wanted to do was sit and chat with these two guys. I told Vinnie about my project and he agreed to be included as well. He’s #52

And John…John was a nice gent as well. Smaller in stature than Vinnie, nicely trimmed beard flecked with gray. Said he’s been friends with Vinnie for a long time. (“He was a commercial shampooer when I met him,” Vinnie said. “I teach him how to be a carpenter. Now he’s THE BEST!”)

John was quieter though, happy to tell me about his family and three kids. Still, he didn’t seem very enthused about a portrait so I didn’t push it. No matter. I know I’ll be back to Highland Park…maybe I’ll bump into them again. I did get one shot of him though.

© Mark V. Krajnak 2010 | JerseyStyle Photography | All rights Reserved
Unless otherwise noted, images captured with a Canon 50D, SanDisk digital film, finished with PS2 or PSE6 and Nik Software


8 thoughts on “Vicki and Vinnie and John

    • Dear Mark,

      I am glad you shared Vinnie’s story your web page. I know Vinnie very well..


      Beautiful side.. Congratulations !!

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  2. I’m really proud to be #51 of your project! I can’t wait to see it finished. Stop by the resturant again this summer! I’ll be counter girl once again! (And I’ll let Aparna know to contact you.)

    -Vicky (but its okay that you used ‘i’, I used to spell it that way no worries! :] )

  3. First…your pictures are amazing. However the stories are not very accurate. Vinnie ….whos name is actually Volkan seems to have left a great deal out of his story. He did get married when he came to NJ. He had 2 children and after sever Restraining Orders for emotional/physical abuse, was divorced from their Mother. The home his Ex-wifes parents had given them the downpayment for was sold. He hid the proceeds and used it to eventually purchase whatever properties he has. His 2 children whom he would bounce in and out of their lives even though they lived in the same town, were never a priority in his life. In fact, in the fall of 2011 he abandoned them and fled back to Turkey. Never telling his 2 children he was leaving or how they could contact him. They heard from complete strangers their father was gone. In fact, they were told about this story while trying to find a way to contact him. So if the American dream is to come here…have a family…mistreat & abandoned them after taking what he could financially….he sure did live the American dream!

    • Karen, thank you for stopping by and for your comment about my photography. Much appreciated. As for the other information, I cannot verify what Vinnie told me, nor what you’ve put here. All of the people I photograph have stories – good, bad, indifferent. It’s what makes it such an interesting project for me.

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