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!
These are some street portraits I did on a recent Sunday. Comments are welcome.
This is in continuation to my series on “Portraits of Strangers”…
I’ve got lotsa works to sort out. It’s about time I start compiling my works on the streets since March 2009. Being retrospective helps to study the progress I make.
It’s amazing how much a photograph can tell. It shows the state of mind of the photographer when the shot is made. If you can read further, you can literally read the photographer’s mind, his/her intention, his/her personality and how he/she looks at life.
I personally feel that women are better photographers in general. They seem more sensitive. Men are often bogged down by what equipment they use and all the technicalities of the camera. Worse, if they are shopaholics like me… they end up having too many cameras to choose from even before they go out for a shoot. (I used to stare at my dry cabinet for more than 30mins before I could decide what to bring with me… haha)
It took me more than 20 years since I bought my first camera to realize that there is no perfect camera!
That’s the fun in photography, having fun with different cameras… but also this becomes the necessary evil at the same time.
It’s necessary for new inspiration to be injected as different cameras produce different results, but also an evil when it becomes too easy to turn us into Gadget Men rather than real photographers who are focused on producing better and better images.
It becomes a personal choice for one to choose sitting around in coffee shops comparing gears OR getting out there to shoot something. I walked through both stages.
So, if you have a camera lying around not used, take it out and shoot something. You never know what you can do unless you go find out. Or sell it to one who will actually use it to produce images that speak…
Photography is about shooting, NOT talking.
This is another portrait I did in the series.
It was a spontaneous smile!
I have been very busy lately. But I thank God I still manage to walk the streets about once a week. Taking time to see what others do on the streets make me less self-focused. Human nature is selfish. Life is always about “I”, “Me”, “What I Want”, “What I Need”… we hardly even mention “We” (our loved ones), and much less “He” or “She” who are strangers to us.
For the ones who are close to us, it seems natural to just take them for granted. In the airline I used to work in, the most fussy complaining passengers are the ones getting the most attention. Our loved ones are often like the quiet passengers who appreciate us silently, or even doing things for us without us knowing. (there were those kind passengers I knew who would just walk into my galley to throw a used plastic cup into the trash bin or get a drink from us without pressing the call button when we were so busy…)
Sometimes, the people in our lives are like passengers. They come and go. There are the nasty ones as well as the kind ones. Our loved ones are our faithful passengers (without much of a choice). No one knows when this flight will end. But we are all called to serve. (with cheer)
It is relaxing for me to walk the streets. I do not have to shoot to enjoy myself. Being there, sometimes chatting with strangers is already enough for me. For these are the strangers who make me realize the world is NOT just about ME.
I thank God for them.
I’m having a super busy 2 weeks lately and thus, the lack of updates. Here’s one of the portrait from my “Portraits of Strangers” series…
I wish to know you more.
One of the greatest miracle in life is to have a baby!
I learn the most from my baby. I learn to love my wife even more when she was pregnant. No books on earth can teach you all these. The above are just some selected shots from the 1st roll I shot. More to come in the near future.
I have always been viewed as a “Big Kid” among my friends and families. I have my swinging moods, my endless questions, my annoying curiosity, and I talk more than I listen, and worse, I’m always doing the opposite.
In photography, I have gone through being a truly commercialized wedding photographer, shot dozens and dozens of couples in a year till you literally forget their names, faced fierce back-biting from fellow competitors in the industry and being called names. In those days, I have also earned enough to own many expensive equipments, ran 1 gallery and 1 studio at a time, and spent massively in advertising.
But now, I am telling you, “It’s always good to be like a child once again!”
I ask myself so frequently, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”, “Why did I ever pick up photography?” and “Why did I become a wedding photographer?” As for the last question, my answer is “I like to see people happy!”
Being a child again means, we’ve gotta get back to basics. We have to return to our roots. We have to love what we do and do what we love! We must be pure in our intentions. We have to be honest to ourselves and to the ones we love. We ought to be simple. We also have to be darn curious about everything. We ought to be sensitive to everything around us, our own feelings, others’ feelings. Bottom line – We have to be sincere.
Commercialization in weddings takes away it’s original true meaning. As wedding photographers, we should feel honored that we are chosen to document someone’s once-in-a-lifetime event. We should remain faithful to it’s original intention and meaning – documenting it in it’s happiest form! NOT use it to selfishly win recognition through awards to gain personal fame and glory.
Every wedding is already different by itself. We don’t have to try to make it more different. In trying too hard to make things different, we end up showing off more of the photographer’s gimmicks than the couple’s true joy. Now, before some industry award winners start shooting me, I am not saying awards are bad. Winning awards from established wedding photography organizations can motivate us to learn and improve our skills and give us more confidence to come out with more masterpieces. But I am talking about our intentions.
Don’t sacrifice your wedding couples. If all you are looking out for through your viewfinder on a wedding day is award-winning shots, you sure miss many simple but important and necessary document shots. Believe me, an artistically blurred movement shot of the back of a bride for example, won’t be more important than a F8 sharp smiling posed shot of the bride and her dad. Before you know it, dad won’t be around anymore. People die. We all die.
If I only live to win recognition, I’d rather die.
Don’t you just love babies?
First Passport Photo... haha...
Crying Loudly... ...
My eyes are open now. That's me. "Hey! Who's this man with beard disturbing me?"
Olympus really does produces excellent skin tones! Babies, babies… … We were all once like this!
A very cute boy
Hope this picture cheer you guys up out there in this gloomy world – Michael Jackson died, swine flu, economy down, Malaysia’s political situation, more-and-more-“photographers” charging cheaper, nasi kandar still so expensive, sucky photographers winning awards(subjective), everything getting more expensive(except for digital SLRs), poor getting poorer, more and more babies being thrown away, homeless not fed and dying, children being sold to prostitution daily, etc, etc… never-ending human rights violations. Let’s all not forget life is not just about ourselves.
My self-portrait during one of my project shoots
Busy, busy, busy… … so sorry for the long gap in updating. My thoughts on this whole blogging trend lately can be found here.