On Photographing People

 

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

As some of you know, over the last year I have taken several photography workshops to help me get beyond my self-taught, working-on-my-own, vacuum. One of the (many) things Ive discovered while at these workshops is that some people have a fear of approaching and photographing strangers. During my travels I realised that this is certainly not one of my issues. I take complete pleasure in going up to people and striking up conversations. Some of my images are informal street photographs but many are straight “portraits,” taken after asking permission or at least having been acknowledged by the subject. The latter approach is my preferred way of working.

I believe that I reach out to strangers with humility, curiosity, and openness. I have no qualms about asking someone who captures my interest if I may photograph her. I tend to spend a little time chatting with the person as s/he becomes more comfortable with the idea of being photographed. This actually makes the interaction more congenial and collaborative which is how I like it. There are those who say no but then, of course, there are those who simply say yes and allow me to shoot away, without particularly wanting to chat.

Bahia, Brazil

Bahia, Brasil

My inclination when taking these portraits is to get very close to the person. I have an M43 camera and utilize the 24mm and 90 mm full frame lens equivalents. The first enables me to get close to my subjects yet shows them in the context of their surroundings. The second lens lets me get wholly closer. The 24mm lens facilitates a story (should the viewer want to read one) because it is a wide one; there is no need to step back to get the background and diminish the subject while doing so. I believe that by getting closer to the person I create a more powerful image.

Camden, Maine, U.S.

Camden, Maine, U.S.

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

As I spend time with my subjects I try my best to follow these simple rules of my own making: be honest and direct with people, and always be respectful. By doing this I am being true to  myself and feel I am inching a little closer to the emotional lives of the people I photograph.

Outside of Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Outside of Xingping, Guangxi Province, China

Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.

Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.

Bahia, Brazil

Bahia, Brasil

 

5 thoughts on “On Photographing People

  1. L Weber

    Great shots! As you know from being with me, I am often uncomfortable when you approach people who are obviously homeless or struggling and ask to photograph them. It may be my own hang up. But I have to admit that your shots are so rich.

    Reply
    1. Tamar Granovsky Post author

      i have approached many people for photographs – some of them homeless. i did not take a photo that i loved of this one particular homeless (and clearly drunk) man on the streets of toronto. but i remember him fondly. we bantered and laughed back and forth for about 20 minutes. he was such a hoot! he claimed he wanted to sleep with me and apologized profusely when i told him i am married. his interest in me was completely sincere. i have been fortunate to have met many wonderful strangers like him.

      Reply

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