Styling from Danville, 2012
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I’m learning to get closer still.
To get the good portrait, so it’s said, you need to get close, This doesn’t mean cheating by getting “close” with a long telephoto lens or by sneaking a picture when the subject isn’t aware of you. It means getting close enough to talk to the person.
I’ve been working a lot on my approach lines lately and I’m making good progress in approaching strangers in order to take their photographs. I get the distinct impression that this is one of those skills you need to exercise regularly so that you don't get out of habit.
I'm also discovering, I'm happy to report, that there are all sorts of people orbiting around my life who I should be photographing. Most are people I'd never given a moment's thought to before. Just the other morning, for example, I happened to drive my our local outdoor vegetable market and noticed the lady who manages the floral side of the market standing at the side of a field of flowers. Between the light, the shape of her body, her dress, her sun hat and her position relative to the field it was like a moment from Van Gogh. I could see the image in color or in black-and-white. (I'll be back, Caroline!)
As I look at the pictures I've been taking of "strangers" lately, I see that I’ve still got a lot to learn about what to do with people after they’ve given me permission to get up in their face. I notice, for example, that I’m still standing well back from most of them, and even though I'm standing back from them I’m not giving them much context.
This is an artistic choice. But noticing this merely adds to the list of things of which I need to be conscious. No one says you have to respect all the “rules.” But it isn’t bad to know about them so that you’ll at least be deliberate when you’re breaking them.
I encountered the man shown above on the beach a couple of Saturdays ago. I was initially attracted to his grandchildren, who were playing at the water’s edge. I’m a little squeamish about photographing children without a parent being close by to say it’s okay. By the time I identified the kids’ family, though, the kids had scattered in such a way that the interesting symmetry of their original composition had been broken. So I struck up a conversation with their grandfather.
Nice guy. Cool hat and glasses. Nice horizon reflections in the glasses except for the photographer.