It’s been a long time, almost exactly a year, since I did any stranger portraits. It remains a difficult thing for me to do which is a large part of why I do it. Additionally, driving into work this morning I saw the scene below. The park is a place where many homeless people seem to gather/sleep/live. I went back to check on the man but by the time I was able to park and walk back police and ambulance personnel were on the scene. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder about my own perceptions of my environment. If it weren’t for the bike would I have gone back to check? It seemed to add an element of action interrupted rather than someone passing out or sleeping in the open. Lots of questions about internal and external elements.
This little girl was at a birthday party for some family friends. She alternated between closing her eyes and sticking out her tongue (in a non-annoying way that made me like her more) and that real smile. Her older sister was there too but she was old enough to pose. She smiled but it wasn’t real. She said she didn’t like her smile. That was a pretty depressing statement for an 8 year old to make. Already self-conscious. This picture was taken in the computer lab in the building where I teach night classes. Tien Shu (spelling? seemed rude/stalker-ish to ask) is a math major. She seemed fine with having the picture taken but there might have been a communication problem. I asked her a few small talk questions but all I got were smiles and nods . . not sure if it was a language issue, or just too much time in the computer lab. It was not as satisfying as a number of the other shots but I do like that she manages to smile with just the lines on her face. Her lips remain completely straight. It is interesting for me to look at this series all together. I wonder if the closeness of the photographs relates to my comfort level or that of the subject. […]
David was suspicious of my motives. It seems explaining that you take pictures of strangers to interact with new people and work on your photography skills is not seen as a normal motive for doing something like this. I soldiered on and (semi?) convinced him I was simply odd and not evil. While suspicious in the photo, he was smiling by the time I left (coincidence?). I did position myself so that he had to turn towards the light some. So I was actually thinking more about the photography aspect of things this time. I’ll consider that progress.
Michelle is from a small “hick” town (her words) outside of Austin. She has a younger sister who she basically raised because their father left and their mother had to work. She is on her way to visit family in Germany. This is the first time she’s made the trip to Germany without her sister. We actually talked to a while about photography and technology. In the end, Michelle got her camera out and took my picture as well. So I think I avoided the creepiness factor on this one.
I don’t want to be the “creepy guy with the camera” that D’Arcy mentions in his #ds106 talk but I do want to be able to capture certain images and interact with other humans in a variety of ways. If I can make myself keep trying these I’m hoping, eventually, I will have the banter and people skills down well enough to do this without it being awkward for both parties. Taz was chosen in part because he didn’t look like he’d be worried about me- camera or no. He’s pretty much the exact opposite of the first portrait. I learned his name but nothing else about him. I did not need to tell him not to smile. This experience was different than the first stranger photo but not any better in most ways. You’ll also notice that the pictures is out of focus as well but we’ll cross that bridge when I can focus more on the photography and less on the human interaction portion of things. I will say that this would make an interesting project to do in a school. You’d have to prep students properly but it would be interesting.
I often see people and think that I’d like to take their portrait. It sounds creepy in my head as I write that but I promise it’s a fairly widespread idea. I just happen to think certain people look interesting but I don’t ever do anything about it. I worry my social skills are not up to it. I’m not a good first impression kind of guy in a lot of ways. There are many reasons. My neutral face frightens people. I tend to be reserved. As a kid who moved a lot, I had two choices become outgoing and gregarious or do the opposite. I chose the latter. But you see a photo at the top of this post. A photo I took of a stranger. That may not seem like a big deal to many of you but it took some serious psyching up for me to do that. It’s not the best picture but it does represent something I’m glad I did. That’s the interesting thing here. The #ds106 course gave me the structure to make some assignments and one I put up there was the stranger portrait photography assignment (visualassignment29). I had been thinking about it for a while. Once I wrote it down, it kept coming back to me. I couldn’t make an assignment for […]