Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Fascination of Foreign Faces: Part III

The young scholar, Mayalan Village, Northern Guatemala

Fourth, be invisible.  This isn't a contradiction; it simply means working without calling unnecessary attention to yourself.  In crowds I practice invisiblity by avoiding direct eye contact.  That doesn't mean I avoid looking at people, but rather that I seem to look through and beyond them.  Locking eyes with individuals can cause them to feel singled out or threatened -- not a good thing in countries where political/cultural factors make it wise for most citizens to keep a low profile.  When  photographing people in this way I sometimes take the camera away from my eye after making the picture and continue to look toward but past the subject.  Very often he'll look around to see who or what I was photographing.

Another kind of invisibility occurs when you work in an open, straightforward, and businesslike way.  People will watch you carefully for signs of indecisiveness or fear.  When you project the attitude that you have a right to be there because you have a legitimate, worthwhile job to do, most people will relax and allow you to get on with your photography.  People in other countries are usually gracious, hospitable, and patient with strangers who observe the basic courtesies.

Fifth, be occupied.  Actually, this refers to the subject rather than you.  Often, the best time to photograph is when your subject is involved in an activity.  A parade, a fiesta, a sporting event, religious ceremonies, work, or play...whenever the subject is more interested in something else than he is in you, the time is right for good pictures.

I photograph frequently in classroom and worship situations where the people are fully aware of my presence.  What's more, against all the advice I've heard or read, I often do it with multiple flash.  Whenever possible, I have the person in charge introduce me and explain why I'm there.  Then I ask the people to continue with whatever they were doing as if I were not there.  I work slowly at first, while they check me out with sidelong glances; but they become used to my presence much more quickly than you would imagine and are once again fully involved in their activity, yet with an awareness which produces a kind of hyper-intentness and concentration.  I almost always get pictures with heightened emotional and dramatic impact in such situations.

Shopkeeper, Madras, India

Even more than making photographs of people engrossed in activity, I like to make portraits of them looking into the camera.  I want to look, and help others look through  their eyes and into their souls.  To make a personal connection with them through my photography.

It isn't difficult to make great portraits of people in most foreign environments,
but there aren't many people doing it.  The principles in this article have been tested
around the world and they will work for you if you will use them.  You can learn to relate
to people and make portraits which will express their dignity and humanity and at the
same time express and satisfy something deep within yourself.

Foreign faces are endlessly fascinating, because they are the faces of our family.

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