When I was an active advertising and corporate photographer, one of the areas of photography I was and still am known for was/is my environmental portraiture. What I like the most about this genre is what I tell my online students with the BPSOP, and with my fellow photographers that take my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops..and is one of my many personal pearls of wisdom…”Make a new photo friend”. I tell them that for me, talking to my subject before I ask to take their picture is as much fun as the actual process of composing it.
Whether it be a random person I’ve met on the street or a worker at some manufacturing or industrial plant, I’ll start a conversation with them from asking about their job to their kids (especially if they look like grandkids), to what brought them to the place we just met.
I do this for a couple of reasons: I’m curious by nature, and it loosens them up. The last thing I want to do is stick my camera in someone’s face because it will either put them off or frighten them. Either way it can’t or won’t lead to a successful portrait; one that appears as if they knew me long before I started shooting.
We were driving down the road in Provence when I saw this man moving baskets around a small building. I couldn’t tell what was in the baskets so we pulled over to find out. I was hoping that he spoke even a little English so I could talk to him without our French driver to translate. As it turned out he did speak enough English to communicate with me.
We started a conversation and it turned out that he was making Grappa, which is a grape based Brandy that originated in Italy. Grappa is made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, and can be very strong. The proof was when he gave us some to drink from a spigot at the end of a pipe…aged two hours!
It was a most enjoyable conversation and I walked away with a new photo friend. Btw, it’s always a good thing to send them a print, and these days it’s become so easy to e-mail a copy.
Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.
Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2105 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me sometime. July 26th will be my 27th year at the Maine Media Workshop...the granddaddy of them all. I’ve always picked this week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. It offers a completely different set of photo ops: color, motion, people, energy, light, and design. A great way to break up photos of the beautiful coastline, fishing villages and lighthouses that Maine is known for.