We came up with a simple formula that we repeat with every pairing. We introduce the strangers, ask them to spend one full minute of silence just looking at each other, and then we begin with some questions. We ask that they just speak to each other and not to the moderator, even though she’s the one throwing out the conversation topics.
“What kind of old person do you want to be?”
“What’s the last photo you took on your phone?”
“If you knew you were going to die in a year, what would you stop worrying about?”
And on and on.
When they’re done (which usually takes 45-50 minutes), one of the two photographers involved takes them somewhere else nearby for a small portrait session. It’s amazing how comfortable many of them seem in the photos after such a short amount of time!