Choosing the right person to photograph is a big part of the way I work. I make a lot of my portraits by stopping people in the street and asking if I can take their photograph then and there. I mostly shoot 2-4 frames on each person, but I have already set up the shot. I will have chosen the background, thought about the light and camera angle.
Which of the passersby will make a good portrait? It is all too easy to be distracted by youth and beauty. Too easy to have your head turned by someone fashionably dressed or a fresh face. Too easy to be drawn to the ‘peacocks’ of the human race. The flamboyant types that dress up and show off their brightly coloured feathers.
Many photographers are drawn to, and make work about beauty. Less are interested in the mundane, ordinary and every day, but we mostly choose to photograph one or the other. Sometimes having a choice of who to photograph is too contrived, too fueled with my own preconceptions and assumptions. I sometimes force myself to stop the next person that walks along. I have tried this, but the method that I have settled with, are to have varies categories of people that I am looking for. In that way if someone fits one of my categories I ask them. The choice is then taken form me. On the day when I took these two photographs, and the two from my previous post, not one person fitted into any category. I was looking for women with grey hair, people with take away coffee cups, girls wearing lots of make-up, someone wearing an animal hat. In this way I can create a series and hopefully record an image that comments on, or acknowledges something that is going on now.
I would be so much happier to have a whole group of people to photograph, allow the process to happen and then choose the most successful portrait in the edit. Where I captured the best expression, on the most compelling face, that made for an arresting photograph. It would allow me to work without the distractions.
On this occasion I reverted back to whoever caught my eye. For my next big project I will be inviting anyone who wants their portrait taken to sit for me in a kind of free mini portrait studio. This will take the choice of who to photograph away from me and I am looking forward to some great surprises.