Street Portraits

As I have blogged about previously, I recently signed up for a photography degree at a local college in order to expand my horizons and learn new skills in the field. As a consequence, I expected to find myself stepping outside of my comfort zone and being asked to attempt stuff I would not normally consider. I was not wrong!

Our first module teaches us a variety of techniques for portraiture. We started in the studio experimenting with basic lighting but were quickly thrown into the big wide world and tasked with collect street portraits. I should point out, for reasons not made entirely clear, all subjects photographed throughout the module must be proud hat-wearers. One can only assume the college is involved in some hush-hush PFI scheme with the local milliners guild – I imagine them as a shadowy organisation much like the free masons…but snappier dressers.

And so I found myself, last weekend, wandering the busy city streets like a charity mugger stopping likely victims and asking them for a moment of their time. I was actually pleasantly surprised just how many kind folks stopped and agreed to allow a random bloke take a photography of them posing. Sadly, the cringe-factor never abated even after a couple of hours of non-stop pestering busy people. I have to admit that I allowed a fair number of photographically interesting people walk out of sight while I searched for the courage and the right introduction that would not sound too needy, too verbose, too aggressive or too timid. I have however learned that the best way is simply to say ‘Excuse me. Do you mind if I take your picture?’ as launching into a diatribe about your project, it’s brief, your college, your first camera and your entire life history are probably surplus to requirements unless specifically asked.

So, without further a do, please allow me to present the fruits of my labour…

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I learned a number of valuable lessons during the afternoon’s face-chasing. Notably, students are quite co-operative provided you quickly make it clear you don’t want money and also, try to have your camera properly set up before stopping someone as taking four pictures followed by ‘Hang on, that’s still not right. Can I try one more?’ can get a little uncomfortable once you realise you are holding up some girl and her dozen or so friends.

All in all it was certainly a new experience well worth doing, if only for the amusing moment when I turned the tables on a charity mugger who actually started running away once I explained that I was taking photos of people in hats and “That’s a lovely hat you have on!”

MrD

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