The premise of the San Diego People Project was simple. I’d photograph one San Diegan and then ask them a series of questions about their lives, which would lead me to the next person I’d photograph.

Since then it’s been a long, strange journey. I’m signing off on the project today. It’s become too labor-intensive with all of the other tasks I have here and all the other priorities I have for personal projects.

But to say goodbye to the project, I wanted to put together a wrap-up of where this started, where it took us, and how we got there. I’ve sincerely appreciated the willingness of all the subjects who’ve been photographed and all the people who have read along since we really got going in April.

It started with the barista at my local coffee shop Jennifer Moreno.

She led me to her UCSD art professor, Norman Bryson.

I asked Bryson about some of his more exceptional students. He was quick to offer up Aimee Harlib, an artist, a scholar, a mother and a former rocker.

Harlib and I had a wide-ranging discussion about her life and work. I ended up finding a friend of hers, Steve Burge who owns a local company called Hot Squeegee. He played a crucial role in Harlib’s life: she met her husband at Burge’s house.

Burge was a big fan of hot sauce and of the Mexican food he put that hot sauce on. His favorite local joint? Roberto’s Taco Shop in Encinitas. The store supervisor Liliana Lopez was kind enough to join the project.

Lopez’ son Alex was learning to play the violin at school. I got in touch with his teacher, Steven Traugh and photographed him just outside his home in Vista.

Just as Bryson led me to one of his exceptional students, Traugh was quick to tell me about a young lad named Tyler Gange. Gange, he told me, was an 11-year-old bass whiz and an all around interesting kid.

Gange and I hung out for a while, and he couldn’t stop raving to me about an exhibit he’d recently seen at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. So, I sought out the man who coordinated it all, the museum’s exhibit director Paul Siboroski.

At this point, things got really strange. Siboroski had just eaten at the North Park Fish Market and his waitress was my good friend Ftimah Ilahi.

I photographed Ilahi in Ocean Beach, where she did much of her interior design and furniture work. A few blocks from where I photographed her is Ocean Beach Hardware, where Ilahi gets her materials. I tracked down Carl Weidetz, who owns the shop, to keep the series rolling.

Weidetz has had a ring on his wedding finger for a long time. The jeweler who sold it to him is just down the road: Goldsmith Gary Gilmore.

While Gilmore and I chatted, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the fish swimming in a tank behind him. The fish came from Pet Kingdom, where Ron Soucy is the resident fish specialist.

Soucy met his best friend while on the job at Pet Kingdom. He and Barry Lambert share some interesting common hobbies, including Chevy Impalas and Galapagos tortoises.

Lambert is a real family man. So it only seemed natural to photograph his daughter, 11-year-old Sarai Anguiano.

Obviously, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because Anguiano was quick to offer up her aunt, Summer Steele who is a school social worker in East County.

Before I even arrived at her home, Steele had come up with someone she thought would be perfect for the series. Mark Van Bibber is an El Cajon-based structural engineer who had a wide-ranging chat with me: from talking about Lincoln Logs to chatting about how he became paralyzed just as he was starting college.

VanBibber had recently worked on a really interesting project. He built a treehouse for Girl Scouts of San Diego-Imperial County. On that project, he worked with facilities manager Eric Williams, who spent most of his life in the U.S. Coast Guard.

While I chatted with Williams in the treehouse, he pointed out that from that point on the Girl Scouts’ facilities, you could hear the elephants at the San Diego Zoo. So, I found Ann Alfama a zookeeper who takes care of those very elephants.

And that’s where we end the series, just across the canyon from where we began at Santos Coffee Shop in North Park. The project took us all around the county and introduced us to people from all walks of life. It just goes to show how connected we all are and that everyone has an interesting story to tell.

Sam Hodgson loved shooting the San Diego People Project and would love to hear your thoughts about this photo series or any future VOSD photo projects. Contact him directly at or 619.550.5664 and follow him on Twitter:

Sam Hodgson

Sam Hodgson is a freelance photojournalist and contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can contact him at

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