The Other Side of the Lens

When I take a portrait of someone I’m generally looking for and trying to encourage, that moment they relax into the situation. Occasionally I end up with something else.
I know from bitter experience how difficult it is to stand in front of a camera, as if you’re not in front of a camera. I’m always so impressed by people who can just stand there and look straight down the lens back at me. For many people, myself included it’s not that easy.

When I worked as a photographer’s assistant years ago, one of my daily tasks was to stand in and have my photograph taken, to test and check the lighting. Moments later a model would take my place, that had just spent a good couple of hours in hair and make up. Devastating. This experience has made me aware of those small ticks we do when we are not at ease: the sideways glance, that stiff aquard stance, clenching the jaw, biting a lip, making fists. For me it was my foot that would give me away – I’d point my toes upwards with one foot, resting my weigh on my heel. I could manage to look kind of relaxed, until it came to my extremities. Knowing what to do with your hands and arms is the most difficult, so often it’s easier to photograph people sitting down. A lot of the time, I am photographing a complete stranger on a busy street – this adds to the feeling of unease, as people walk by and stare.

These photographs are examples of this, but where I think that the person’s unease makes the photograph. I like the shrug of the shoulders from the girl in the top picture. It looks like she is almost trying to remove herself from the situation. The girl in the middle just stood like this, her face is relaxed and she has a open expression, her arms are hanging easily by her side. The tell tale sign is when you look further down at her legs. I usually wait and see what a person does, how they stand and look. I’ll use that as my starting point, and direct them a little, if it’s not working. The final photograph is my favourite as he looks so tense. He’s biting his lip and looks like he’s about to click his fingers. You can almost see the tension running up his body from one hand to the other. His T-shirt adds something to this too.

These images are all from my Pop up Portrait Studio, which returns in November for 3 days only!
Follow on Twitter(@PopUp_Studio) for more details coming soon…

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