The inspiration behind the Street Portraits
I'm fresh off a 3 day street portrait workshop in Boston with the great Harvey Stein. Harvey is a professional photographer, teacher, lecturer, author and curator. Stein’s photographs have been widely exhibited in the United States and Europe and he's authored several books. I picked Harvey to study with after viewing his Coney Island 40 Years breadth of work. His style is very engaging, and I knew if I could absorb even a morsel of his confidence, I'd walk away with a lot.
There were 10 students and we bonded quickly, finding safetly in numbers as we hit the street asking people from every walk of life if we could take a picture of them. Harvey pushed us to get close (3 feet) use a small wide angle lens (28-35mm) and concentrate on composition, include enough background to place them in the setting, but not too much where it became cluttered.
Moving among the throngs of people in Quincy Market and a festival in Cambridge, I stalked my subjects, picking people I thought were interesting looking. I have always been drawn to photograph the obese, tattoos, smoke and the drifter, so I focused on those who fit this criteria.
The first day was intimidating and exhilirating. Learning to approach my subject and convince them to pose required I explain myself and earn their trust in just a few sentences. I asked them not to smile and moved around looking for the best light, focusing and snapping pics as quick as I could. By day two I slowed down and thought about my composition, taking up more of each persons time. It wasn't easy and I will continue to push myself till I become less uncomfortable. I improved as I went and my portraits became more intimate and close up.
I recommend everyone starting out take a workshop, preferrably in a city you don't live in. Being in Boston was more interesting than shooting in my hometown. It took me out of my comfort zone and offered a fresh new landscape. I look forward to pursuing this new genre and amassing a collection to where, one day, I might publish my own book.