The Camera Looks Both Ways
When are photographer immerses themselves into a project or subject they unknowingly reveal a piece of themselves to the viewer, allowing others a glimpse at something more than the photograph that is produced. A persons style can say a lot about them.
A relaxed and natural portrait comes from a mutual trust and respect by the photographer and the subject alike. Emotions in p0rtraits can be nervous and guarded by the subject and require a delicate sincere demeanor on the part of the photographer. We see the photo in our minds eye but not the person and a lack of people skills will rarely produce the vision you saw. Uncomfortable with the idea of being photographed or a lack of respect for the photographer and his/her approach show in the eyes and will not bring the inner person to the surface to be photographed.
The collaboration between a photographer and his/her subject, whether a landscape or a person, is a patient promise by the photographer to nurture a given opportunity until they see the true nature of the moment reveal itself.. This may involve returning to capture a landscape or earning the trust and respect of a person you wish to photograph. Patiently and professionally allowing the subject to get a glimpse of your inner self before they relax and are comfortable with you and your intentions.
Photographers without patience rarely take the time to see the real moments they seek. Instead, they capture technically good images of poorly executed ideas either because they lack the dedication to the craft or have not developed the non-technical skills to excel in their chosen field. There are photographers who can approach a stranger in the streets, in another country with a different language and still be able to capture the inner self of this person by the way they conduct themselves. While there are many who will not even have the courtesy to ask permission to photograph a subject simply because they are insecure with their people skills and unwilling to work at it. Sometimes you have to shoot first and ask later if the moment dictates it but you can’t work as a magazine photographer, regardless of your technical skills, without getting releases from your subject and that requires a personality that is approachable to strangers.
A good photojournalist has to develop fine tuned people skills and have the ability to interact with a wide variety of subjects under sometimes stressful or rushed circumstances. One’s ability to make a good first impression and earn the respect of the subject is key. But earning the respect is not the same as demanding it. I have seen many photographers who can provoke a negative response from the subject simply because of their lack of respect and aggressive pushy personality. Other photojournalists will not gain the respect of the subject because they show-up without a preconceived idea of what they want to accomplish, wasting time, and are unprofessional in the execution of the assignment. I have always had a vision in my mind of what I want to accomplish with an assignment before I even arrive. Whether I can achieve this is not important as I will be able to adapt to either a time constraint or the surroundings faster because I am mentally prepared and armed with an array of solutions from years of experience in similar or worse situations. While their are moments where you will have to be aggressive to a degree to accomplish an assignment, each must first be assessed quickly to determine the approach that will best help you succeed and then execute the task efficiently, timely and professionally. News paper assignments are like a box of chocolates in the sense that you never know what your going to get, how much time you have to eat it and who you have to eat it with.
Remember that your degree of success with a subject is directly related to the approach you take to accomplish what you have envisioned in your minds eye. Not all unsuccessful shoots are the result of a technical failure.
‘There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.’ ~Ansel Adams