We are at the end of week two at Tisch and are each currently working on a digital street portraiture assignment with another student in our class. We are assigned the somewhat daunting task of approaching strangers on the streets and asking to take their portrait. One half of the project is taking pictures and the other half involves asking the subject five predetermined questions about their lives. My partner and I, as well as one other group, went to Williamsburg in Brooklyn to seek subjects and were pleasantly surprised to find the majority of people we talked to were willing to have their picture taken and happy to open up to us about their lives.
As the day went on I became confident approaching people on the street and explaining our project to them. I spoke with a diverse group and got a little insight into who they were. Asking questions and getting to know your subjects helps break the ice and make them more relaxed in front of the camera. One questions my partner and I asked our subjects was: “What is the most positive thing in your life right now?” We got answers ranging from “My determination to get a college education.” to “My girlfriend.” No matter what their answer happened to be we always got their faces to light up and were able to capture them in a moment of happy thoughts.
I have learned a lot about taking portraits while working on this project, but my biggest take away so far is actually not photo related at all – Its the simple rule, don’t judge a book by its cover. A man covered in tattoos smoking a cigarette under an overhang who I thought would smirk at our request was actually someone who talked to his mother every day, a woman just hanging in the park with her friend was determined to go back to school, and a Polish man working at a construction sight dreams to one day be married. The photo included above is one of my favorite subjects, he spent time talking to us about what we were interested in doing with our lives and told us that if he could wake up and be anyone in the world, he would just be himself.