There’s a very good chance the same fears we share about photographing strangers will never go away. Our hands shake, our heart beats faster, we’re constantly turning our head down pretending we’re reviewing an image, we look up again hoping our subject hasn’t made a strong eye contact to a point where they would instantly diminish the little confidence we already have. The only thing we have going for us through this struggle is knowing that we only have to do it enough times to lessen the fear of it.
For me, I associate the experience of photographing strangers to attending a gym for the first time. There’s that ever perpetual fear perhaps because we don’t want to get injured which is generally a result of not taking the initiative to at least read up on what the ideal approach for a newbie would be. But above that, there’s nervousness in attending because we formulate this idea that all eyes are on us. In spite of the heavy grunts or the panting that emanates from everyone who’s running faster than they should be on the treadmill, believe me when I tell you that unless you’re wearing something flirtatious, people are more into themselves in the gym then you would think.
What does that mean to you as a photographer whose striving to get over their fear of photographing strangers? It’s about being consistent. If you do both the gym going and photographing strangers enough, your mind won’t wander so much on what everyone else is thinking about you and allow you to focus more on what you want to say about them through your photos.
Thomas Leuthard has been a street photographer whose work and intelligent articles on the genre I’ve really been enjoying. His opinions and advice are not just limited to street photograph per say but they’re certainly loaded with great advice on how to better approach this act of photographing strangers.
As for this photograph, it was one of those moments where I managed to take it without the person even realizing until he saw me walking away reviewing what I had shot. It was in Brooklyn, it was 85 degrees, it was late in the evening and him as much as I were anxious to get home. The difference at least from my perspective is that he seemed to have a lot more on his mind than just wanting to go home.