Stranger

The meaning of the word stranger can be easily found HERE.

It basically also means alien and foreigner.

Life is ironic. We depend on one another but we refuse to know one another. We are supposed to be educated NOT to be racist, but we still are racists in our hearts at times. We are taught NOT to judge a book by it’s cover, but yet we judge all the time.

In portrait photography, I discover the joy of knowing people.

I am well trained for years in photographing wedding couples (since the 1990s), posing untrained “models” for pre-wedding portraits, catching them in their best angle and in their most natural but flattering state. I took pride in my ability to photograph ordinary people cause I think they are much harder than trained fashion models.

To me, there’s ONLY one word in portrait photography: Communication.

You can use the best equipment, a F1 portrait lens BUT have absolutely no positive communication with your subject.

It’s hard, cause it drains emotion, it drains energy, it tests your true sincerity in photographing your subject. Sometimes, when I am emotionally tired, I just can’t do it the way I want it.

In wedding jobs which I have done for years, I must say there were times I knew I just didn’t “make the mark” I wanted, BUT I did make the mark the clients wanted. Whew! (I have since quit being a “hardcore” wedding photographer since 2009 and am concentrating on developing my photography passion afresh)

In street photography, we are actually photographing strangers all the time (unless you have made some friends on the streets you regularly go to). Now, this is even harder, cause they don’t pay us to photograph them, and many of them do not even wish to be photographed.

I am still learning and I think this learning will never end.

It’s NOT just photography I am learning. It’s 90% communication, 10% photography I am learning.

Each time I go out on the the streets for a shoot, it’s a test to my sincerity, a test to whether I am genuinely interested in my subjects.

I meet them FIRST as a person, and second as a photographer interested in making some good portraits of ART. When we put ourselves in the shoes of our subjects, we will naturally NOT do to them what we do not wish others do to us.

There are generally two approaches to street portrait photography: one is to photograph unobtrusively, at times “stealing” shots without really asking for permission, AND another is verbally or non-verbally (the use of body language) asking for permission before shooting. I do both.

Shot in Penang.

It is interesting when Strangers are turned into acquaintances when you give yourself a chance to put down your camera, have a chat with your subject, get to know them, or even help them… before you pick up your camera to take a shot again.

An old man in Ipoh, with one eye blind. He used to live in a rented wooden house with a broken roof but his son has since fetched him home.

So, the next time you pick up your camera, think of yourself FIRST as a person, second as a photographer. Take some time to care for your subjects before rushing to take a shot. It’s a totally different experience!

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