8.15.2011

Nice light is good.

I love large, soft directional light with a good shadow for some drama.  When you find it out in the street it's a wonderful thing.  Just make sure, when you find it, that you have someone around who is fun to photograph.

info:  Belinda in Verona. Tri-X.

Saying hello to strangers in public.

 I know it can be kinda scary to walk up to strangers and ask them if you can take a picture of them.  It's even scarier if you don't share a common language.  But it's a fun challenge.  Especially for the introverted.  I was walking through the streets of Rome when I saw this imposing looking person. And he looked so different with the headscarf, the aviator sunglasses and the cigar in his right hand that I just had to get his portrait.  But I didn't feel right trying to be surreptitious so I walked right up to the table he was sitting at and asked him if he would mind.  "No Problem."  I focused my Hasselblad, having already judged the exposure the minute I stepped into the square.  I was using the 100mm Planar so it was important to get physically close.  That's not a long focal length on a medium format camera.  I shot a frame and then he leaned over and mugged a kiss to his mom.


I snapped that too.  He smiled, she smiled, I smiled.  I was about to thank him and walk away when he took off his glasses and his headscarf and gave me this very direct portrait.  I loved it.  We shook hands. I bowed and walked off.  The man seemed delighted that he had been singled out for a portrait.  He gave me good stuff.


When I go on walks in San Antonio with groups of photographers and when I do lectures about photography there are always some people who want to use long zoom lenses to sneak photos of interesting people.  But the images they get always leave me unengaged.  In many ways these long distance photographers have no cultural skin in the game.  And the photos lack dimension.  The camera is so, so, so secondary to the whole equation.  It's all about responding, reacting and collaboration.

A great exercise for all kinds of photographers is to stretch out of your comfort zone. Minimize your camera gear so that you don't need to make any choices.  That takes it out of the mental process.  Go somewhere with lots and lots of people and try picking out the most interesting people in the crowd, approach them, tell them your true intentions for taking an image and photograph them with their willing complicity.  You'll meet people.  You'll learn what it means to get permission.  And your photos will be more interesting.  Was it Robert Capa who said, "If you're pictures aren't interesting you're not close enough?"  

Techfo:  Hasselblad 500 CM,  100mm 3.5 Planar,  Tri-X film.  Scanned on an Epson V500.