Thursday, September 27, 2012

Close Up Street Portraits

Of all the things I have done and experimented on the streets, the ones that really get the kick out of me, and I enjoyed the most doing would be shooting portraits of strangers. Like, really, really close up portraits, headshots, with their eyes gazing straight into my lens. Perhaps some people may find these shots to be overly simple and straightforward, with no additional meaning or message whatsoever, but I find the simplicity and straightforwardness extremely compelling. It was that brief moment of connection between me and the stranger, it was that window of unspoken communication when my shutter button clicked. The stranger's presence was acknowledged, and the trust of having their photograph taken by another complete stranger was also evident. 




Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens


As strange as this sounds, I do think that those posed photographs looked more natural than many other candid or untouched moment shots. What is there not natural about humans looking each other in the eye? A conversation is ever more engaging with proper eye-contact. What is not natural having the stranger knowing the presence of the photographer? Is photographer not another human being that deserves recognition and respect as well? Why do we (photographers) have to be invisible? If you want to have that connection in your photograph with your subjects, do what you have to do, as you would without a camera, as you connect to them. If I were to talk to them, blend myself into the environment, I would be another person standing aside the stranger, possibly starting a conversation. Making connections is a very human thing to do. I want my photographs to show that, no matter how unrefined my definition of connection may be for now. Getting close, and still being able to get their "accepting and natural" facial expression is not an easy thing to do. 

Sometimes I question myself and the many philosophies put forth by the forefathers of street photography. Well, if the rules stay stagnant and we just obey whatever we read from the books, I think photography would become boring, and at some point, dead. To keep things interesting and exciting at the same time, we can recreate the vision and redefine the genre through our own experimentation. A refreshed view on what works for our own photography may not necessarily agree with what everyone else is doing. 

Street portraits may not be widely accepted as street photography? I choose to disagree. I think street portraiture is one of the most powerful forms of street photographs, ever. 

18 comments:

  1. Excellent portraits. Astonishing detail. In fact, for me, it's the extreme level detail that sets these apart. I know high resolution, on-screen presentation of picture files can enhance most any image but these are exceptional. I think your approach of engaging your subjects this way makes for very intriguing photos. Well done, Robin.

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    1. Thanks David !! I see you finally can post a comment.
      I appreciate your kind words !

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  2. Hello Robin,
    I am back.
    Love those details and the connection made between you and the subject. The clear sign of trust in their eyes are awesome.
    Great works.
    BTW Singapore trip was great and my wife allowed me to roam the street on the 3rd day to do my shutter therapy session. I am a very lucky man.
    May you have a great evening.
    John Ragai

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    1. Hello John,
      Glad to know you had such a wonderful and understanding wife !! I have heard stories of horror when husbands spent too much time with the camera !

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  3. Eyes are the mirrors of the soul. These excellent, intimate portraits indeed show the soul. Impressive!

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  5. Robin, these 2 portraiture shots with the new macro are truly impressive!! Very captivating facial details, especially the eyes I must say...

    Well done!

    Alvin

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    1. Thanks Alvin !! Always pay attention to the eyes !

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  6. Robin, what kind of PP did you do to get that specific greytone?

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    1. Starred,
      Here is the answer to your question:
      http://robinwong.blogspot.com/2012/06/my-custom-black-and-white-processing.html

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  7. Really nice portrait!
    Can you tell me what settings you had on the camera?

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    1. Millerflip,
      I do not have a fixed setting on my camera, I adjust them as I need for different shooting condition. Lighting conditions change, subjects change, and it also depends on what you want to achieve in your shots. You have to have more specific in that question, and I honestly can tell you there is no "fixed" setting to follow.

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  8. Robin, these are two of a long string of outstanding street portraits that you have shown on you blog. I've always wondered how much interaction do you have with these people before you take there photo. You don't have to answer here, but it would be very interesting to find out if any words are exhanged, and if so, what do you typically say? Or do you just give them a look, with a shrug, as if to "ask persmission without using words"?

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    1. Hey Gregg,
      It was more of the last bit you have described, I looked at them, gestured my camera and usually they would respond with a smile or nod. Sometimes I do talk to them, but it would be very short and just very casual conversation. The connection I made was usually very brief and quick, nothing special really.

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  9. Hi Robi, wonderful shots i as well consider street portraits one of the more satisfying part of street photography. Specially the approach part. In some cases you even work as a psicologist. People like speaking and telling you about their lifes. If you have the time i as well have a lot of street portraits in my blog. ailukewitsch.wordpress.com



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    1. Thanks Alejandrol for the kind words. Yes, indeed street portraits are MORE satisfying, I wish more people can see it that way.

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