If folks feel accessible to you, where they may come up to you,......'so you're a photographer huh!!!???'......................you'll be accessible to them, it'll works two ways,...........................as opposed to somebody looking at you with the 'there's a creep with a camera' look,...........you'll know either way.
I've felt both those emotions, sitting out on the beach with my family watching other folks take photographs.
I think Karsh took the cigar out of Churchill's hand, hence the grumpy look. Churchill's wife never liked the portrait, because it didn't portray him as he really was. The other, smiling, picture was much more like him, at least to her. I suspect Karsh knew that the "grump" picture was what people imagined Churchill to look like.
Karsh only had a few minutes to take the portrait, so he did what he had to in order to get the look he wanted in the time available.
If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284
I'm afraid I'll have (for once more) to agree with Michael here. There are times, though, when photographic portraits really seem to be really "speaking" about the person photographed (a trick of the viewers mind, without doubt).
I tend to prefer studio shots in the style of Penn (or Karsh) and not snapshots, because of the lighting. I don't appreciate the "snapshot" - style portraits of HCB, even the ones that weren't "stolen".
Returning to one of the original poster's questions, being able to ask (and convince) some stranger to sit for a shooting is something that I would like to achieve in an easy way, too. I think that (as you aren't a student) you could tell people that you're an artist and doing a big project that involves photographing people (adding "outside" or "in their house" or "without any clothes on" or whatever you choose). It might work with certain persons, especially if you add some details like "when the project is completed there's going to be an exhibition and you'll be invited" or "there's going to be a publication and you're going to get a copy". If your intention is not to get the work exhibited or published, you can always claim that it did't work and the project was abandoned. When I did that a few years ago (there was really a project and it was abandoned, I didn't lie) everyone that was asked to sit for a shooting said yes. Of course, I didn't ask people to take their clothes off...
How do you think Diane Arbus convinced all the people on her pictures to sit for her ?
I agree for the most part with the above except for the use of the word "dishonest".
Originally Posted by df cardwell
We've all heard the word used especially in the context of grab shots of down-and-outers in street photography, in the context of exploiting their situation for an image without permission or without establishng a personal connection (however brief) with that person. OK, I agree with that to a certain extent.
But to generalize to all quick-snap portraits of strangers, the essence of candid/street photography, I think is unfair. I think the word "dishonest" is used too readily; we're often too quick to imagine some kind of moral deficiency in others' actions. It's the oozy edge of political correctness finding its way into all we endeavour.
Whether photographing strangers or friends and family, I always ask first, and unless it's someone in my own household, I always offer to send them a print. I've never had a problem approaching people, and it definitely helps that I'm a woman--and now a "senior citizen" too! I never had anyone refuse, or refuse to allow me to photograh their children. But then, again, I didn't generally approach people who were "signalling" a desire to be left alone.
In my youth I photographed for a local newspaper doing general news, and later major league baseball. Even with the players, I always asked first, was never refused. They (and their wives) always said I took "the best pictures." I doubt that the latter was true, but it expressed their appreciation for the respect I showed for their privacy--even as "public" figures.
It post 9/11 days, people are even more concerned about their privacy, so I think it's even more important to seek permission.
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An interesting study: Compare the portraits of both Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz that were done by Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams. Very telling, at least to me. In both cases I see patient tolerance but not repect or esteem in the eyes when Adams was the photographer, and engagement when Cunningham photographed them. I think enthusiasm and love of life is contagious. Sometimes instantaneous.
I also think we humans are only looking at ourselves in others portraits. It's way too lofty for me to think that I can really know Frieda Kahlo by looking at Imogen's portrait. But I think I see feelings reminiscent of my own in her face. Perhaps that's why a portrait of a stranger still works. We see ourselves in them.
Motivation? I'm the shyest person in the world. But I found that deeper needs could overcome that from time to time. I was able to fetch a fine wife 31 years ago, and smart enough to keep her. And I also find that I want to do portraiture bad enough to set aside the shyness from time to time and make it happen. It seems it would be so much easier if I were gregarious and outgoing, but would it. We all bring a certain percentage of the chemistry to the portrait don't we. That's why there are as endless possibilities as there are portraitists and subjects.
Personally, my goal is to make the sitter feel important and valued. That goal has shaped the way I work and keeps me from resorting to the kind of manipulation used by Avedon.
If it's in black and white, and printed on fiber paper, it's a Portrait.
If it's in color, processed at K-Mart, or printed on an inkjet, it's a snapshot.
'I think enthusiasm and love of life is contagious. Sometimes instantaneous.'.......You've done it again Gim Galli!!.........That's a helliva statement...........and I think you can communicate w/other folks that fact on a nonverbal basis...........'I'm after a nice shot if I can get it, only with your permission if you happen to be in mood'...................'how bout it?'.........with only a look, and I think folks become enthusiastic if you're nice enough to include them in the decision making process.
The worst fear of people is that you'll photograph them and make them appear foolish, forget that they want their privacy. In fact that's the first thing I say, if I get a question about what the photograph will be used for, I hand out my card, and tell them 'listen, I'm not gonna make you look foolish'.
You spend time in a park, you can tell somebody in a good mood out enjoying some fresh air, who might just think being photographed by somebody who appears serious about it would be fun, as opposed to a young lady sitting on the grass, whose just had a bigtime argument with her man, and is sitting there trying to sort things out.
I like portraiture of people i do not know , you never know what they will react like when you ask them to be photographed ,and if they agree you do not know how they will react when you pull out an 8x10 out of the back sit of the truck.
I could tell you a lot of stories , but my favorite is the one when
I asked an old man walking by a side of lakeshore on a sunny april day couple years ago, it was getting warmer and the snow was begining to melt I drove buy him first, but kept looking in my rear view mirror, he was getting smaller and smaller , I threw my truck in reverse and backed up , rolled my window down and asked him if I could photograph him, he said " I"ll pay you" I said "no you won't I will give you a print for it" ...While setting up I kept talking to him just to get to know him a bit, he was an old Sweed who's family came here at a turn of last Century and settled here at the lake in Maine , he was 88 years old and when I asked him if he was ever married his reply was"ONLY TO MY RIGHT HAND",I laughed and said " you are just a dirty old man , aren't you?" he smiled and that is the photograph you see here:
When I went back to his cabin a week later, I could not believe in what condition this man lived , the floor was covered in trash , he did not have his shoes on and his tow nails were black, he looked neglected...
When he saw the photograph he lit right up and asked me to hang it on the wall for him , I tryed to walk without steping on the used TV dinner trays ,after hanging it I headed to the door and said "I'll see you", he looked at me and said "you'll see me? you'll see me when?", for the lack of anything to say, I said " On the other side"...
A few months passed and...
I had a show coming up and I included this portrait in it, a local paper ran a story on me and this portrait was one of the prints they used in the article, a few people that had seen the portrait in the paper recognized him.
A few month passed and ...
I had a lady in her late 50's came to see me in the showroom ( I sell cars ) , she told me that when she was a kid she was scared of this old man walking around the lake , but said that I did a good thing by taking his portrait , that he was a charactor and he has passed away in september ....
That is what a portrait of a stranger to me...
All this made me think(danger, danger)... When one photographs a nude how close do you get to understand this person? how much danger is there in getting involved? Why do I ask this ? Well because to me a portrait has as much intimacy as a nude , otherwise it is is just a photgraph of a stranger,is't ?