“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa
There is no other way of putting it.
Sitting somewhere with a massive zoom lens taking photos where you are completely removed from your subject, is nothing to write home about. You share nothing special with your subject and you don’t get to witness the magic in a person’s eyes when you’re not up close and personal.
Somewhere in 2013 I decided to start photographing people. After all, if it weren’t for the people, different destinations would get boring at an alarming pace.
At the time I was shooting a Nikon D5100 with an old school 50mm manual focus lens. For the not so camera savvy ones out there, that means that I have to turn the focus ring with my hand. No auto – focus. It is pretty challenging to get a person in focus when you only have a few seconds to capture the initial surprise of a ginger photographer jumping in front of you, pointing a camera.
Needless to say, hundreds of the first photos came out blurred or horribly over – exposed.
It took months of practice to perfect the focus, and I feel now that I’m very close to conquering that lens.
I learned that it’s better to approach people and ask them if they would allow me to photograph them, than scare the living daylights out of them and have blurry photos of people screaming or trying to slap me.
Talking to them first would set them at ease and they would allow me to take a few shots, in case I blurred some of them. It would also allow me to form a bond with my subjects. Having something in common, even if it’s something small, makes your subject’s eyes shine like midnight – bonfires!
If you don’t ask, people usually assume you’re some kind of pervert and you end up getting screamed at or smacked with a handbag!
I adore photography. Simply because it enables me to freeze time. It enables me to stop everyone and everything in their tracks and look at that moment forever without it changing. Photography gives me the power to capture emotion. Something that you can’t really bottle, or cage. It’s like sitting with a TV remote and pausing the scene, forever…
Going through my photo collection and recalling intricate details about every person is like drugs to me.
I’ve always been fascinated by people. What’s her name? What obscure town is he from? What weird job do they do? Has she got tattoos in naughty places? Wonder where he got that scar? What’s her favourite band?
“I wonder how many times you’ve been had and I wonder how many dreams have gone bad. I wonder how many times you had sex and I wonder, do you know who’ll be next?” – Sixto Rodriguez, I Wonder
I would sit at coffee-shops or bars and watch the world pass by. I’d rather choose bars because people at bars usually have dirty little secrets or heart – wrenching stories. Coffee shop patrons bore me. They always share the same basic story about their cute kids or their big house with a pretty white picket fence!
I made up an alter – ego for every interesting person that I saw and tried to get the character as fitting to their appearance as possible.
I later found that I don’t even have to make up characters. I just have to walk up to the person and talk to them.
Every person reminds me of a part of my travels. I tend to use photographs of people as checkpoints. When I look at a picture I can recall most of what happened before and after that picture, where it was taken, what I was busy with and my mindset at the time.
It’s incredibly satisfying to look at these photos and be transported back to that exact time and place.
I’ve included some of my favourite photographs that have been taken over the past 10 months that I’ve been living in Thailand.
Some of the names have been erased from my memory, but I’ll never forget the electricity in the air when you show a person their picture and they love it!
Be Happy, Be More