2019 has been a good year for shooting stranger portraits
As many of you know who follow me on social media, one of my favourite things to photograph are strangers. I love to stop random people on the Streets of Calgary and ask to take their portraits. One of the main reasons I love doing this is that it provides a brief moment in time to not only capture someones portrait, but to strike up a conversation and learn something more about them and to also share something about myself.
Now this may sound a bit strange and weird to some people but Brandon Stanton, of Humans of New York (HONY) fame has developed a large following doing just this, I’m sure most people have come across his posts on instagram or twitter. Stanton and HONY created a resurgence in this type of photography and it plays right in to our curiosity about other people and the lives they lead. Just like the reality TV shows we watch, we love to delve behind the faces and be nosey. While I don’t always get a full and interesting story from everyone I photograph I’m never surprised by the things strangers will tell me. From secrets, to peoples inner most fears and wishes, I’ve heard just about everything. I’ve had laughs, been nearly brought to tears and been left full of respect for how some people manage to live rough on the streets while still remaining humble and willing to help others.
Things I’ve learned shooting stranger portraits
One thing this particular journey has taught me is to never judge a book by its cover. We tend to judge people in seconds as our eyes meet, often we’re right, but one thing I’ve learnt is that I was often wrong with my first impressions. I remember taking the photo of one guy who’s face was cover in tattoos, most people would avoid such a person and cross the street. Turns out he was the nicest guy you could possibly wish to meet and was a Maths professor at a local university.
Something else I’ve gained is a renewed respect for my fellow human beings. As someone who walks the Streets of Calgary on a regular basis, I meet and see the same homeless faces every day. Many manage to beat their demons and find places to live, clean themselves up or manage to find a job. Others however don’t. In the couple of years I’ve been photographing people on the streets of Calgary I’ve learnt of the deaths of several people I’d spoken to many times. Others I’ve seen go from clean good looking people, to drug ravaged wreaks on the brink of slipping away without immediate help. Many of the homeless I’ve photographed have actually asked me to take their picture. When I’ve asked why, the answer is nearly always the same, “I don’t want to be forgotten” So don’t just walk past homeless people and pretend they’re not there, just nod and say hello. Something I’ve learnt is that a lot of people are only a couple of pay checks from being in the same situation. It can and does happen to people like you, so a little respect and humility should be the least we can show.
More of the same in 2020
Despite the sadness on the streets there are plenty of people I’ve photographed that have been a pleasure to speak to. In fact some have since gone on to become good friends. Street photography often gets a bad name and I’ve been shouted at, threatened and swore at, but this is rare and the goodness I see, and the fun people I meet make it well worth while. Will I carry on in 2020, absolutely, you never know you might be next……