It is not enough to love your camera, to love photography and to love travel. Good portraits are about loving people, other humans, those that co-inhabit our earth. Looking at them with compassion, togetherness, curiosity and the wish to belong to this fascinating and colorful range of humanity.
In the town of Tashkurgan, home of the Tajik people in Xinjiang, bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, I met this boy in the old mountainous Pamir region. It is said that this town marks the middle way between Europe and China. The faces I saw there were unforgettable.
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.
More soon on the street photography process.
Snow white and she~ Shanghai
How life etches its print on our faces~ Shanghai
the looks that haunt~ Yunnan
By art she lives~ syrian refugee
She makes jewelry as part of the rehabilitation and education programs that ‘Beyond’, a local Lebanese NGO does with the children in the Syrian refugee camps.
some smiles cannot be forced~ Syrian refugee
There are now over 1.2 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon in camps waiting for a better home under the care of humanitarian organizations and NGOs. The children carry the hope and strength of their whole nation.
A story like the wind
The complex webs we spin
Our children have this magical way of growing up without us even noticing. The greatest miracle of expansion from a little fetus to a wonderful human taking their place in the world, cannot be taken for granted. It is an amazing thing, growth. It’s a golden truth, magical in every way. It fascinates us, we gush over it and it catches us by surprise when our little baby turns 11.
Happy birthday little big girl~
the boy who saw through me
Attempting documentary photography and not feeling compassionate love for people would be pointless as far as I am concerned.
I love feeling the humanity in other people’s eyes, to guess at what they are feeling, to lock eyes with them even for a brief moment, to be part of their world for the time I that I am there and later again and again through their photographs.
With each visit to Yunnan, my connections are deepened and I feel compelled to return. Simplicity is a gem in our complex world of today, a fountain of peace to a busy and crowded mind.
More soon from this amazing region of China…
seated worker on a smoke break
puffing in contemplation
her colorful pipe~ a family tradition
A few more portraits in this series as I travel through an extensive archive of photographs from Yunnan revisiting a world so different to yours or mine.
man with pipe
Going back through images from a past trip to Yunnan’s Honghe area. I am planning a return visit to the region very soon. This is the first of a series on images of smoking inside the traditional life of the ethnic minorities residing in Yunnan.