These recent images from my Instagram page have been titled “chasing spirits”, and for the first time I find myself seeing a distinct line running through these street portraits that were taken by me in different Asian countries but solicit the same emotional reaction from me. There is something that draws me in to the internal processes of strangers through the maps of their faces, the history recorded in their eyes and the roadmaps of their lives in every line and wrinkle that cause me to pause and wonder: what drives me to chase these images and irks me to go to more places and stop, look and capture? It’s a strong driving force that never relents and I am hoping that after the chase, the cause may reveal itself. It’s a journey of passion and every moment brings me closer to myself…
Candid street photography is perhaps my very favorite style when I am out in the streets. Anywhere I travel, I find myself drawn to the human element in the streets and I search for a human connection to create my photograph and my story.
I am often asked about the process of candid portraits and if I were to offer 7 tips it would be these:
Take your time. Often and if the time allows, I try not to do any photography on my first day in a new place. Instead I try to feel the place, walk around, look, listen, observe, admire and investigate.
Slow down. When I walk, I try not to feel any anxiety about having to capture anything. I wait for the inspiration to come to me because I have discovered that it cannot be forced, like all good things in life.
Be polite. I always try to reverse the roles and see how I would feel if someone came at me with a camera aggressively and tried to photograph me without my permission. I am most certainly going to be closed to that intrusion. Instead I smile, I make eye contact and I show genuine interest in my subjects. I back off if unwelcome.
Be prepared. The last thing you want to be doing when seeing a moving moment is to be fiddling with your camera settings and getting flustered. I check my camera before going out, I make sure I am ready for the light conditions and the style of photography I am aiming for.
Be open. Sometimes I might have an expectation as to what I want to photograph on a certain walk, but I am always open to whatever else my inspire me. Patterns, movement, architecture… but being open is much easier said than done and takes a lot of practice.
Take more than one shot. In the digital age, we have the luxury of having room for experimentation. I remember back in the 90s when I was using film, how careful I was with each single frame knowing that I had a limited number of shots before I had to change film. Nowadays, you can take your shot at different angles and make multiple compositions to get the shot that you really want.
Have fun. It is such an incredible joy to me being in the streets, around people, doing what I love doing the most. If you are not enjoying it, you might as well find something else to do 🙂
These are some of my favorite street portraits that I am currently featuring on my instagram feed.
They roam the little alleys looking up at adults with wide eyes, they are petted by every passer by, talked to by every grandmother and given treats by every aunt and uncle, they are loved. The more I go to the alleys, the more I walk among the people, the more I feel the warmth and the innocence that transfer between the generations.
and I cannot imagine a world that is void of color~ Seoul
I heard once that babies smile the first time they see a rainbow through their tears and it makes them want to cry again to see the miracle of color. Beauty can be so overwhelming that it does make us cry, and life is one beautiful miracle after another. How sad it is that we sometimes forget.
So much power can travel from and between human eyes, intensity, excitement, alarm, fear, inspiration, hesitation, suggestion, avoidance, guilt, pride, strength, wisdom, glow, inner beauty, and so many other emotions and radiations, too many to list here. Gateways to the soul? Portals of higher communication? However we see them, once the mouth is masked as it often is in Asia, I find that the eyes intensify as it does in other places around the world where only the eyes are shown.
One of the most stark truths about the future is that it remains unknown until the moment when it happens. We project, we plan, we dream, we wish, and almost always we are surprised by what unfolds. If it is the past that holds sway on our emotions, then it is the future that triggers our imagination and creativity, and the now is the bridge we build to take us into the great unknown.
A new year unfolds, and so do many contemplations in my mind …
I wonder what life is like for a man working in the sea, to have the earth shifting beneath you constantly, to have long hours of alone time between sky and water, to rarely experience stable ground, to be exposed to the elements day in and day out, to become intimately familiar with the movement of sun, stars and moon and to know the real joy of loneliness…
photo taken: Man on a boat docking in the rain in a harbor in Hong Kong