I don’t often photograph people. I’ve dabbled in portraiture, which I enjoy, and street photography, which I don’t. I think it’s because I don’t want to deal with a stranger upset that I’ve made an image of him or her.
I follow the blog of pro film photographer Ken Wajda, who says the secret is to engage with the people you meet on the street. After you’ve built a little trust, just ask if you can photograph them. Most say yes. He also usually offers to send his subjects a print of the image. He rightly points out that in this era of mobile phone photography, few of us own prints of our likeness. His subjects are delighted.
Sometimes I think I should push through my reticence. But there are so many photographic opportunities in my favorite subjects — old buildings, old roads, and old cars — that I’ve not needed to yet. It’s a classic photographer’s conundrum: I can challenge myself with subjects that make me uncomfortable, or just keep getting better at photographing the subjects that naturally draw me in.
I’ve taken to making images of people under two circumstances. The first is in an environment where there are lots of people and many of them are making images, even if only with their phones. I’m essentially invisible with my camera then. The second is when I’m out having fun with people I know, even if only as acquaintances or colleagues.
I made this photo in the second circumstance. My company held a big industry conference last year. After everything was done and our guests had moved on, we all went out to a karaoke bar to blow off some steam. I had my Olympus OM-2n in hand with a terrific 40mm f/2 lens, and I pushed some black-and-white film well past its speed rating to make images in the available light.
This is Jon from our Copenhagen office. Given that he’s Danish, you should pronounce his name yon with a long o. He recently announced that he’s moving on to a new opportunity. Maybe I should send him a print of this image before he goes.
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