Every couple of days, I get an email from the Digital Photography School that has links to photography tips. I often don’t completely agree with the tips, but what I do agree with is the overriding principal of mindful photography. While we might not always agree on how to accomplish something, we always agree that it starts with knowing what we want to accomplish,. Recently, in an article on Street Portraits, I read Before approaching a person to ask him or her if you can take a photo, have your settings spot on. When they say yes, lift your arms and snap snap snap, say thank you, and walk away. Easy.
I have learned to take a different approach. Years ago, I signed up for a class in Portrait Photography at the Omega Institute. The course was cheap, but getting there was – with airfare to New York and then driving to Rhinebeck – too dear and I never got to the class. But the sub line, A portrait is an artifact of a relationship., has transformed my travel photography.
Ever since, I have slowed down. When I see an interesting local, rather than try to grab a shot or shoot as fast as possible, I stop to ask. I try to to banter back and forth a little bit, even if it is only with sign language. I establish a mini relationship. Counter intuitively, when I used to be as quick as possible, it was often an intrusion, I was obviously trying to steel a photo; by having a relationship, even if only for five minutes, I honor the person. This is especially true when traveling in countries where people normally don’t like their picture being taken.
I have gone from a fifty tries and three successes – using the term success very loosely – to ten tries and ten successes. I know that the woman above is named Maria and she comes from Nebaj, Guatemala, that she was raised in an orphanage and her sister orphan is also named Maria. I know that they find humor in calling themselves sisters and both having the same name.
Here are several samples: