Ilford HP5
Canonet QL17 GIII

First street portrait I have asked for since shooting film. I spotted Joe whilst walking as he was smoking on the path. At first I hesitated but came back and asked, sadly by this time he had finished his cigarette. I wish to do more street portraiture in the future, something to get the fear out of shooting out in the streets. He was a really cool guy, even took his glasses off as he didnt want the glare to ruin the picture. I feel the small size of the canonet also helps on not being too intimidating when out. Any tips or advice on how to approach people to ask for their image? I do prefer candid but at times it is nice to get to know a person and ask.


3 thoughts on “Joe”

  1. Nice work! Even the flare adds to it! You have made the first step, which is overcoming your fear to ask a stranger to pose for you. And a good thing he was an amicable one, because chances are 50-50!
    Now there are a couple of things you should know. They are rather kill-joys, but better know them than be sorry. A person allowing you to take his photo, retains all rights of his image. According to laws (that vary from country to country, find out what is the law there) you should ask and get his written permisson to use his image, for either commercial or non profitable reasons. That being said, you realize that this would seem more intimidating and in some cases raise a monetary interest on the part of the “model”. So even though still walking on thin ice, you are somehow covered by his knowingly gaze into your lens, when using it here.
    There are a couple of ways to ask for a photo. Of course, you have to rely on your good judgement, who might react badly even if asked. First, the absolute truth approach. You go up and say, “look I am a photographer, and I like the way you look. I want this photo for my personal portfolio, purely for artistic (or whatever) reasons.” People are usually flattered, but still chances are 50-50, for other reasons (mood, suspicion, phobias, etc)
    The second way is to use your student identity and say it is all about a project.
    In both cases, offering to send them copies, (digital or printed) might also lead to your getting a written permission or a thank you letter that strengthens your case and rights to use. Asking if they mind putting their photo on this site, after you take the photo,might also give you some liberties, or at least save you from future trouble.
    The third is a bit tricky and totally based on intuition. You should not worry about your camera. As a matter of fact they should notice you are a photographer. Looking like a tourist might help you get some photos without a problem, but you should always look for a sign of acceptance. A friendly face, a smile or whatever. And in case they don’t like it, make sure you are either ready to hear some nasty name calling, or be stronger or faster. 😉
    The forth is try and make sure you are not getting noticed. I would avoid the third and forth cases, but I know how good things look candid.
    And as a matter of fact this is the only tip I can offer you: If you see something so tempting and good that you can’t resist to take a photo, take it and then go and ask for permission for another. If the candid photo isn’t offending in any way, you can send both photos and get a permission for both. Eventhough the vastness of the Internet is such that there is very small chance for someone to come across his photo, unless he already knows or completely by chance. But you should always try to not hurt people’s will and certainly if the photo is even a little offending, should not be presented.
    A nice way to avoid these law entaglements is to start taking photos of your friends and relatives. Street photos, going out for a stroll and letting them know that you will be taking photos and act naturally. And by the way, street photography can be and in some case is 100% staged and not in the streets . So carry on the good work! Anxious to see more!

    1. Hi Vassilis,

      Once again Thank you for sharing such great advice and the different ways of handling the situation! I feel like it is almost a mini blog post filled with invaluable tips 🙂 Very much appreciate the wisdom and experience my friend. I think I am rather more comfortable being honest, but the written permission would be a tricky task. At this moment I like to just take images to try capture/document an era rather than the monetary aspect. Seeing and learning about Vivian Maier’s work has inspired me to just shoot for the love of it. Although I would not mind to get exhibited one day 🙂 It is interesting that you raise a staged street scene. I have been considering and questioning this for some time although not with friends but people out in the street. Alot of small photography projects to explore.

  2. I don’t know if it’s great advice, but glad I can be of help. 😉 Street photography was in a way the main studies I had, at the Zographou seminars, even though they were focused in a non-commercial use. About staging a street scene, I can only say that “street photography” is just a label people use in order to describe by grouping vaguely, general aesthetic values of some sort. Take the photo and let others do the labeling, really. And if it is a good photo, who cares if it is called or grouped under “Street photo”. And I would be very pleased if this iniciates a talk about street photography and what is all about. 😉

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