Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Don't Talk to Strangers

I am a hermit. I am, for the most part, anti-social. I like to keep to myself. I’ll smile as I pass someone in a hall at work or the aisles at a grocery store. I offer hellos or a “Nice day for a hike!” to those I pass on a trail. I guess my parents should be proud. They taught me not to talk to strangers when I was a kid and twenty-some-odd years later, I’m still adhering to their rule… only now, it‘s a detriment. I’ve so-conditioned myself to shy away from strangers that I can’t take photographs of them. Maybe it comes from a respect for privacy, but I just can’t imagine walking up to someone, camera in hand and asking to take a picture. I would hate it if someone did that to me. Compassion, perhaps? I would feel awful if I made someone uncomfortable in their own skin just because I wanted to take a picture for myself. I don’t know. Have any of you overcome this issue with shooting people? Maybe I should just try it and shut up about it.

On another but similar note, I'm insanely envious of those who can seemingly effortlessly make beautiful portraits. I'm not talking school yearbook or wedding photographers and definitely not Wal-Mart photo lab picture-takers. I specifically mean photographers like Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark and hordes of others who make me wish for their skills. Perhaps though, I shouldn't limit my words and by extension, those of you who make such portraits. I'm talking Fine Art Portraiture where the subject is photographed in his or her environment and the resulting image evokes emotion. I’m talking portraiture not only of the physical features of a person, but of a soul. I’m thinking of many portraits I’ve seen that are just incredibly moving, inspiring, full of joy, void of life and hundreds of other verbs and adjectives. Someday, when I get over this Thing with people, I’ll make a Fine Art Portrait that even I’ll be happy with.


Anonymous said...

To a fellow Hermit. I am with you.
However, for some reason people gravitate toward me anyway and confide with me. I like the shot. I have photos of my husband in similar pose.
Love that Acros too.

Becky R

Melisa Taylor said...

I was like that, too. In my photo 1 class in fall 2003 I refused to shoot people shots. I made sure I did portraits and decisive moment assignments without people. I shot a portrait of a bar. I was like this for a while, then I realized I needed to move past it because I felt like I was getting "stale".

So last spring I started forcing myself to take photos of people with the Toy Cameras (i figured if I had a weird camera it would make it easier than a "professional looking" one). Sometimes conversation of the weird camera segways easily into "Mind if I photograph you with it?".

After constantly looking over my contact sheets I realized they looked forced, in other words, I wasn't getting close enough to the subject because of my "shyness". I made a promise to myself to work on that and to keep being brave enough to ask people if I can photograph them.
I feel like I am improving alot, I do have to watch my composition more though...
The best advice I can give is this... if you feel like you need a change and you feel deep down inside that you do want to do portraits (candid or otherwise), you have to just DO IT. Make yourself.

Of course you will always have days where it doesn't 'feel' right, but at least try.

Good Luck!! Remember, just do it! It's the only way to get past it.