doing, not being

Revisiting an idea from my earlier post called Choosing the Subject, I realize that I prefer to photograph people who are actually doing something.  Although formal portraiture can be quite moving, I’m by no means a studio photographer, and have very little interest in it.  I want to photograph people in context.  Often, the context is an event – a dance, a wedding, a party, a concert.  When people in such contexts become aware they’re being photographed, they’ll often “pose”.  They’ll stop what they’re doing, and try to plaster on a smile, or a serious face, or try to look cool.  The effect is that they decontextualize themselves.  They’re reacting to the camera, not the world.  It looks artificial, and is one of the leading causes of bad family photos (along with poor lighting). 

The only solution I’ve found is to be a sneak.  I don’t hide my camera, but I do photograph without permission, and I stick to unobtrusive techniques – no flash, no beeps, no large lenses, mechanically quiet cameras.

My daughter snapped this photo of me and her mother.  It’s not my photo, but it’s a good example of what I’m talking about here. The emphasis is not on us, but on the activity – in this case, a loving kiss. As she is a good sneak photographer, we didn’t know she was taking this.

yuletime kiss


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