1. Brief

briefsubmission – blog – feedback – essay

Your first assignment is to make five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you.

You will almost certainly find it challenging to make photographs of people you don’t know; it’s often much easier to photograph somebody you’re already familiar with. This could be referred to as the ‘comfort zone’ – and for the purposes of this assignment you will be specifically required to leave it!

Leaving technical photographic considerations aside, there are a whole range of issues to deal with in making a portrait of somebody you don’t know. This additional skill set should arguably be in every photographer’s kitbag, regardless of what genre of photography they end up working in. The ability to concentrate on technical and aesthetic considerations whilst engaging with a complete stranger brings a plethora of difficulties. Added to the fact that most people aren’t that comfortable with having their photograph taken anyway, then you can see why this could become a minefield!

Just as you learn the techniques behind how your photographic equipment works, there are techniques you can learn about how to photograph people you’ve never met before. Many historical and contemporary portrait photographers have written about this and one piece of advice stands out:

If it is at all possible, spend time with your subject, getting to know them and triggering a dialogue with them, prior to even showing them your camera.

OCA, Photography 3: Identity & Place