"You caught me on a short beard day!"
I met this man sitting on a bench enjoying his paper in Union Square and his beard and hat immediately caught my attention. There was a story there, but I wasn't sure what it was. Pulling out my camera, I asked him if he would be ok if I took his photo - "I really like your beard" I said. I definitely wasn't ready for his response (the "short beard" comment above), but more importantly over the next ten or so minutes we continued to talk with me occasionally taking another photo.
What started as a portrait of a consenting but unconnected subject transformed into a glowing portrait by the end as our connection began to become more real. There's still a lot more story there (about how his predatory landlord was working to evict him, how he's been squatting for decades), but without the connection, there is no photo. But almost all of them start with the same question and the willingness to be told no: "can I take your photo?"