Sunday, August 30, 2009

Birthdays, People & Photography

It was my birthday last Saturday, so we went down to the Chinese Gardens in Darling Harbour; one of my favourite places (anyone who knows me will tell you how excited I get about birthdays. There may have been bouncing on the spot and excited hand flapping). My favourite photos from that afternoon were portraits, which, along with conversations we had that day, started me thinking about people and portrait photography.

I'm not a big fan of posed portraits. I can always see too clearly the muscle tenstion that comes from an awareness of being watched, and the masks we assume when someone else is making our portraits. There's nothing wrong with posed portraits, mind you - they're just not my style, and they're not what I'm interested in seeing of people. (This may also explain my dislike of advertising and most stock photography - it all seems so artificial.)

Chinese Gardens Birthday-20Chinese Gardens Birthday-21Chinese Gardens Birthday-5

For me, I much prefer to see people comfortable being themselves. Not necessarily unaware of the camera - I'm no voyeur, taking pleasure from snatching illicit images, just people feeling naturally comfortable and unguarded.

The images in this post were all made that afternoon while we basked in the early-spring warmth. One of the reasons that was suggested for my ability to have people feling comfortable around a camera was that I'm so frequently waving it around that people quickly grow accustomed to it, and forget it's there, even while I'm overtly using it to photograph them. There's probably some truth in that.

I think there's a bit more to it, though - I've seen plenty of people with a camera always to their eye, and other people still freeze as soon as it turns towards them. I suspect that a large part of it is that when I'm using a camera, I rarely think of it as a separate thing, but as an extension of myself, and photographing is as natural and unselfconscious as smiling, or as seeing.

Chinese Gardens Birthday-4Chinese Gardens Birthday-3Chinese Gardens Birthday-14

It also has to do with trust. I'm not interested in making people ridiculous, or capturing some secretive image that strips them bare, revealing my superiority as photographer over the unwiling and passive subject. I like and care about the people I make images with, and would far rather share than snatch - and I'd like to think they'd know that.

So, some portraits from a sunny afternoon. Since I wanted to show more images than usual, they're thumbnail sized; feel free to click through and browse the gallery. And also make sure to comment if you have an opinion on people photography, whether street or portrait, or anything else.

Chinese Gardens Birthday-11Chinese Gardens Birthday-8Chinese Gardens Birthday-2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit disturbed that I actually recognised that as David's crotch...