Hey, all. Well… the holidays are just about over (just that big New Years Bash thang left to get out of the way before we continue through the long dark winter up here in the Pacific Northwest), and I realize it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. I personally like to blame the Holidays because they’re a convenient excuse that everyone can pretty much understand.
In my household we celebrate Chanukah with my wife’s family and Christmas with my family (which is pretty fantastic, there’s never any argument on who’s family we’re going over to for Christmas or Easter or Passover… Thanksgiving there tends to be a scuffle for position, but we negated that this year by having both families over to our place). Anyways, I’m getting off track. So with 9 days of holidays to celebrate, things got away from me, and I’ve not been a good photo blogger.
The photo above is one of my holiday projects. I volunteer at an organization called TeenFeed which helps feed homeless and at-risk teens in the University District in Seattle. It’s not much (mostly I just sit and chat with the kids over dinner), but I think it’s still important to help support those kind of organizations in any way you can. They partner with several other teen organizations in the area and they all had a big holiday party together with the kids. All the staff dressed up in costumes, and I set up a photo booth for everyone to come and get photos taken. It was great to see so many smiles and people just being goofy
I’m still going through my giant list of podcast back-issues and I was listening to The Candid Frame interview with Nevada Weir. She was talking about her philosophy on photographing people, especially people whose language you don’t speak and dropped this gem of a quote.
We’re around people all the time. In many ways it’s a particularly western question, I have to say. I just came back from India where people are basically sitting in your lap, and asking to be photographed? It’s not a question that would even occur to ask among themselves, so it’s actually a very cultural-specific question. It requires a bit of a long answer, but the short one is that photographing people has very little to do with the other person. It has to do with your own psychology, that if you feel that you are taking or getting or shooting (I mean, we have a lot of really aggressive words in photography), if you feel that way, then that’s an impediment. I feel that 90% of the people in the world love to have their picture taken, and I think that it’s a sign of respect, and a way for me to get more engaged. It’s just all a really positive thing. So I’m approaching it expecting someone to say “yes” and not taking it personally if someone says “no”. And I give people lots of chances to say “no” non-verbally before I even raise the camera to my face, which is also part of working so close, they know I’m there. I think that photographing people is less about the other person, even though I don’t expect the person to sit up and say “cheese” for me, by no means. It’s my responsibility to create an environment where someone feels okay about it and I also feel that if someone doesn’t like to have their own picture taken, you don’t have ANY business photographing other people.. I just approach people the same way I would like to be approached with a camera. It’s actually quite simple.