A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Portraiture on the Fly

Over the years, I have made a practice of studying people and their interactions. Years ago when me and my swabbie buddies would hit the bamboo bars and honky tonks around the far east, they had tractor beams to the pretty girls. I was always the sailor who would get a beer and settle into a dark corner to watch the people and let the prettiest girl come to me.

William Nikkor 85mm Cross processedI have used this self taught mental data base to quickly process information that has kept me safe, but it is also something that is now coming out in my photography. I am fast discovering that that I am a portraitist. People have always fascinated me. Now I am simply recording it.

I am gaining the audacity to simply walk up to people and ask if I can photograph them. I make it a point to dress conservatively and have my camera ready. If they look confused, I quickly explain that I am an amateur photographer, and just why I would like to photograph them, whether it is their hair, their shirt, or their poise. I haven't been refused yet.

I have usually studied the potential subject at a distance to assess their willingness and the light they happen to be standing in. I have the Nikon set to 4 fps, and if they agree to be photographed, I line them up and squeeze off a few shots. Then, I thank them and let them get back to what they were doing. If they want to converse a bit, I talk about what ever they want, and possibly continue to get a few shots. If they are willing, I get their name and give them my own. I suppose I will have to get some business cards made up now. I haven't had the moxie to ask a stranger for a repeat session in the future, but I have a feeling I will soon.

Dos Amigos Nikkor 85mm Cross processedIt is fairly easy to spot those people willing to be photographed. The young ones are the ones who make themselves stand out. The older ones are the people with a life lived etched on their faces. These people want to be photographed, remembered, and celebrated, but they want to be respected as well. Sometimes, I think the key is making the person comfortable and confident that they will be respected in the image.

The best places to find willing subjects is where people feel uninhibited. Festivals are excellent opportunities, as are concerts and museums, gallery openings, and live theaters (if you can get a camera inside). People tend to go to these places to be seen, they dress appropriately, are prepared, and perhaps liquored up a bit. Ultimately, they become a bit bored. The chance opportunity to be photographed intrigues them. I have even had people approach me to have their picture taken when they see me taking photographs. That was surprising indeed.

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Blogger James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Dunno what it is about BW photos, but I never get tired of looking at them. Maybe its because my eyes are none too good, especially with colors. It seems easier to see more in the BW photos. The faces do seem to say, "remember me."

10:20 AM  
Anonymous HankH said...

Awesome pictures Xavier! I came for gunnie stuff and I'm enjoying the photography every bit as much. My wife likes taking pictures and I showed some of your stuff to her the other day. Thanks for a fascinating blog; I really look forward to it every day!


11:45 AM  
Anonymous -gary said...

Moo cards.


2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

B&W. The same medium that Ansel Adams used for his landscapes. To me, it shows off the subtlties and shades and nuances far batter then color ever can. There will always be a need and a market for color, but for the stuff that REALLY catches the eye and imagination, give me B&W.

B Woodman

4:06 PM  
Blogger Ed Skinner said...

Avery makes business cards you can create with your computer printer. The office supply store will have them with labelling supplies. Software should be free, too, but it's been so long, I don't know what to recommend. With that, you can print a couple of dozen "business cards" to suit your needs.

8:08 PM  
OpenID reflectoscope said...

I don't know if the credit goes to skill or talent, but your portraits are compelling, even if (or perhaps because) they are just people out in the world.


9:11 PM  

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