Looking for faces . street portraits in London

“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.

01_street photograhy_portrat_UK12_girl with tattoos_red hair_beautiful_london_style14_guy with hat_london_style_street photography11_lady with style_london_portrait03_street portrait_london06_pink hair_london_portrait_girl10_guy in pink shirt_photographer_london_portrait09_london_southbank_music producer_portrait07_guy with juice_portrait_happy_street04_portrait_london_hairdo_stylish05_portraits_london_street_southbank02_portrait_street_london_southbank08_london_street photography_lady_sunglasses13_girl_london_beautiful_portrait15_london_portraiture_street portrait_ginger

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.

2 comments

  1. Hi Anja

    Found the link to your blog via Brighton Photographers – well done for a great set of photos. I MIGHT be bold enough to want to do this with you, would be my first time. Am sure it would be great fun, with the diverse range of characters here.

    Please email me if you are interested. I am a senior person but not a fuddy duddy, so wouldn’t cramp your style lol. Been a photographer most of my long life

    • Hi Nana Chriss, sorry I just saw your comment. Thank you so much! Happy to take some company along next time I’m out looking for faces to photograph 🙂

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