Faces are pay dirt in street portrait photography, at least I think they are. They are so expressive.
Faces can tell a story simply with a raised eyebrow, a wistful gaze into space or a bashful turn-away of the head.
Then you have the hair. A metaphoric mantelpiece above the facial fireplace. This further extenuates the individuality of your subjects. Afro’d; Mo-Hawked; long and wavy; short and curly; baton-straight; red-haired; blond-haired; no-haired the list of hair-styles is virtually endless.
Endless yet fabulous (as pictured below).
There is a knack however in capturing genuine street portraiture. In capturing the true essence of people in a crowd. I believe to obtain the best shots out on the streets (I’m not talking about studio or planned portraits here) you need to be:
- Agile & Intuitive
- & Ballsy.
You see once you ask someone’s permission to take their photo the ‘moment’ is often lost. Their are exceptions to this but mostly agreement by your subject(s) ends the reality. (The wonderful father and son image below snapped in a tiny village in Tuscany is such an exception)
The beauty of street portrait photography is that grittiness. It’s edgy and real. And that’s where I struggle sometimes. I often lack that in-your-face (quite literally sometimes) quality of the best street photographers. To get their photo the best exponents of the art-form will even risk rudeness. I’ve seen some documentaries where some of the doyens of the art shoot only a metre away from their subject’s faces. Often with a flash!
You can see the anger afterwards, and rightly so, but you see by then the genuine moment has already been captured for prosperity. Agility and intuition as I say above.
Check out the work of some of these great photographers synonymous with street portrait photography.
Good days and bad days.
My best photographic sorties have always occurred when I have intent. That’s to say I leave the house or hotel with my DSLR and a specific purpose. It’s almost like putting on your game-face.
I often wear headphones and blast a music playlist into my eardrums to further detach myself from the everyday and into ‘the zone’. Not a rudeness zone, I never get too into people’s faces, but into a ‘I’m working here’ frame of mind. Ironic I guess as I have never been paid a cent for a photograph. It’s just a hobby and a passion.
I hope that helps contextualise the difference between a per-chance phone snap and a serious day of street photography. For me at least.
People in a Crowd. A Street Portrait Photography Gallery.
Click an image to enlarge.
My submission into Word Press’ Weekly Photo Challenge.