It's been a while.
I've been trying to put out new work fairly consistently. I'm working with some friends on making a print portfolio - something physical and tangible that you can feel, touch and smell (if you're so inclined).
I've been shooting regularly and it feels good to produce new work that I am stoked about and working with new people.
I just want to back up a little for a second. I used to hate working with people. I started off photographing bands, because there was a separation. I didn't have to interact with them, I didn't have to speak to them. They played their music and I photographed them; life was good.
At a certain stage - I believe it was 2013 - I realized that I needed to get over the crippling fear of approaching and engaging with people if I wanted to be a photographer, so I began a personal project called; "Dudes with Beards". I forced myself to engage with strangers. Here's a precursor if all of this is new to you.
Fast forward a few years, I still have said fear, but I've learnt to deal with it. And I kind of love it. It's like we are doing a dance - the subject and I. They have to trust me enough to lead them, but it's also a collaboration. We have to be synchronized and our movements perfectly timed, as not to miss a step and stumble.
Sara Lando once told me; "f*cking look at me, you're not looking at me". I was so frazzled when photographing her that I was not paying attention to her; which is really awkward for your subject. You need to talk to them, ask them about themselves, interact, explain what you're doing, tell them they are doing a great job. Engage!
A couple of months ago I photographed a poster image for a puppet theater production called Tallard & the Ladderbird. The writer of the story, Jessica Ng later approached me to photograph some portraits of her. From the onset though, she warned me that I would not have it easy.
And boy; was it a challenge. Jessica didn't make my life too easy, but I liked that. I need these kinds of subjects to hone my skills.
A short little introduction. Jessica is an Opera singer and she needed some profile images. We actually did two shoots. The first two images was from the first shoot and the third image was from the second. I wanted to show some regality seeing as she sings opera in the first shoot, unfortunately it was a little "too stiff" so we rescheduled and the above image is my favourite from that shoot. I made a really dumb comment or something and Jessica gave this small glimpse of a smile. If you look closely, her eyes are a little softer and there's a little curl of the lips, showing an inkling of a smile and that is what I wanted and what she needed.
By engaging with her and not shutting up and making some sort of joke we both got what we needed from the shoot.
She also told me her mom would be flying over from Hong Kong to come and watch the second and final night of the show and that she would love some images of her and apparently she is even more difficult to work with.
I arrived at our friends place; where Jessica and her mom stayed at and set the scene. Her mom being a big fan of Vermeer; I wanted to emulate his style in a photograph. Obviously I am no Vermeer and I have come to find I need to study the master painters and their use of light to better understand the way I use it and to be better at using it.
After getting set up, Jessica went for an afternoon nap and left me alone with her mother. I'd hardly known her five minutes and now my only buffer decided it was time for a nap? Shit! I breathed in deeply, pulled the chair up to the window and asked her to take a seat. I then explained what my thinking behind the image was and what I wanted to try and capture. All while my camera was on the floor next to me.
In other words, I engaged. I speak for myself when saying this; that, as photographers we sometimes tend to treat the subject like an object and herein lies the problem. Before pulling up the camera to your eye, pull up a chair, look your subject in the eye, smile and engage and talk to them for a minute and tell them they've got this.
Thanks for reading