“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Neale Donald Walsch
I love street portraits and I’ve always admired photogaphers who would just walk up to strangers and ask to take that person’s photo. It’s something I wanted to do for a while and tried a few times last year even – everytime absolutely terrified of being rejected. To be fair, since we’re in the UK and everybody is almost awkwardly polite, the most negative reaction would probably be something along the lines of ‘No thank you, that’s alright’. I knew the worst possible outcome would be people denying my request and I was aware that my fear was absolutely unjustified but still that wouldn’t make it easier to overcome it.
A couple weeks ago I watched a video where a photographer set himself a challenge of taking 30 street portraits within 2hours. I showed this video to my friend Joe, who’s a hobby photographer from London, and asked him if he’d be interested in doing something like this with me. He agreed. So on a sunny August bank holiday I made my way up to London and we strolled around Southbank for some street photography. In our own version of the challenge, we cut the number down to 20 portraits and didn’t set a time frame. My own goal was to not ask just anybody though, but to look for characters, interesting appearances or people that just had something about them that was different. Well, that Monday was also day 2 of Notting Hill Carneval and since going there for the challenge would have been too easy, we were left with a lot of tourists around Southbank since most Londoners either spent that day at the carnival or even in sunny Brighton. That meant, the variety was a lot smaller than it would be on any other day in this city full of colorful and crazy people.
Approaching the first person took a while. We walked along the Thames and sat on a bench, looking for approachable faces. It took a good 30 minutes before I finally asked someone. And the person said yes. Just like almost everybody else I asked over the next few hours. It turned out to be super easy and even when I got a ‘No’ I didn’t feel disheartened – it was a perfectly valid answer to my request and I moved on.
Here are a few of the portraits I took that day.
I definitely want to try this again and direct my ‘models’ a little more next time. Maybe set myself a time frame, find a theme or just go for it and ask literally anybody until I feel like I’m done. So let’s see when I’m out next, looking for faces.