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Jessica Art Blog

Photographing People

by Bookwyrme , January 15, 2008—12:00 AM

Topics: People, Questions, watching

I take pictures of strangers.

It's true.

I'll see some perfectly innocent person standing in a crowd or watch some vibrant woman walk by with her hennaed hair shining in the sun, and out comes the camera.

They are not posing or expecting their pictures taken, simply going about their daily business unaware of being watched.

And there it is, of course. People are so much more interesting when they are not expecting to have their pictures taken, so much more relaxed, and, well, human.

Like many before me, I sometimes wonder about this: What, if anything, am I taking from my subjects? Is what I am giving back worth it?

I can't truthfully argue that I'm stealing their privacy as, after all, they are invariably in public places. Yet at the same time, no one really expects to be observed closely, much less to have that momentary expression of abstraction saved for all time.

But--it is precisely that momentary expression that is so worth capturing; after all, who has not lapsed into that moment of blankness while waiting for someone? Who won't smile in sympathy and feel just a moment of kinship? And isn't that part of what photography is about--making us recognize ourselves? And, more, making us recognize what we share with others?

And it all sounds very noble, and I walk away feeling satisfied with the world, with Art, and with my place in it.

Until the nagging little voice in the back of my head reminds me that I would probably take the pictures anyway, because, like a kid in a candy store, I waaaaaant that portrait.

So much for noble sentiment.




  Mary ( homepage )

12/02/2008 * 11:50:26

I'm a people watcher too, I don't photograph them but I do love to make up stories about them. The woman sitting alone in the restaurant, the couple arguing on the sidewalk, the weary mother dragging her kids through the grocery store. I think that is part of our attraction to most images, it reminds us of someone or somewhere, or we have a question in our head, who is she, why is she smiling? Who lives there?


  Vernonette Gaddy ( homepage )

12/02/2008 * 08:54:31

Hi Jessica,

Thank you for your reply of sympathy concerning the recent death of my father that I profiled on my blog: Art And Grief.
I also take pleasure in sketching strangers for my initial artwork before I finalize the transformation of my art digitally using the Paint program on my computer. I like to catch people unaware.
I enjoy looking at your photographs.



  Maria Williams-Russell ( homepage )

01/16/2008 * 19:28:45

Hi Jennifer,
I am the Editor at artid. I think other photographers might find this blog post interesting, so I am going to feature it on the site.
Love your photographs too!


  Michael Mize ( homepage )

01/15/2008 * 17:22:25

Well, I supose it's better to have had a noble sentiment and ignored it, than to have had none at all!

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