Thursday, May 29, 2008

samurai photographer enters the home stretch

originally uploaded by samuraiphotog.
I have to show the completed 10-week project to class on June 10th, so that means I have two weeks left to construct my narrative. I have a lot of good raw material to work with, but so far not a clear story arc. Maybe there isn't really one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

samurai photographer learns to direct

So yesterday I shot some stuff for my 10-week project, some actual portraits of one of the guys (let's call him PW) outside and in his home.

I was both excited about this and dreading it, because PW and I are actually friends.I was nervous about having him see me work (kinda like how I get when I play with people in a band) and unsure if I would be able to direct him without feeling self-conscious about it.

On the other hand, I was excited because PW is one of those people that I could photograph all day. Not to sound all America's Next Top Model or anything, but he inspires me. There's a number of intangibles I find really intriguing, certain gestures he makes that are just really special. He's also got an amazing face for B&W because he's sort of pale and has nearly-black hair and light eyes.

Part of the challenge that this class is posing is how to learn to better interact with my subjects. As I've said before, usually when I have an assignment to shoot someone, I only get a short period of time in which to get what I need. I make up for the time I don't have "on set" beforehand, by doing research and running through things in my head, so I can maximize the time I do have. PW is the first person I've been able to spend time with and have the opportunity to go back and re-do things, or correct mistakes. It's been difficult to get out of the "tactical strike" mindset, but I think yesterday I took a big step forward. PW was a little tense and uncomfortable (as I knew he would be) and I did my best to help him relax by telling him to feel free to ask me questions, making jokes, etc. I also told him that even though he might be uncomfortable, that I was uncomfortable as well, because I'm not used to this sort of intimacy during a shoot.

I didn't rush, and I just let PW be himself and sit there on the park steps, smoking, and talking back and forth about the stuff we usually talk about. I heard myself telling him to do things like "Relax your jaw a bit" or "I'd like you to look up and to the right a bit...yeah, right there" or "Could you do that again, that thing you just did with your hand?" I thought: Is that really me saying that stuff? I'm sort of pleased that this type of direction came to me naturally, because it means I'm starting to get over these obstacles I have placed in my own way. The "can't", "won't", and "shouldn't" reasons that plague me every time I pick up a camera.

You can't have him do that.
You won't be able to get him to cooperate with you.
You shouldn't ask him to do that.

All of this is, of course, bullshit. Why not? What's going to happen if you ask your subject to do something uncomfortable? The worst they can say is "no", and even then, sometime you can gently convince someone to do something they might not do ordinarily.

The best part of the time we spent together, though, was something I only thought about after everything was over. I realized than as I shot him I got closer, physically. I started out several feet away, but my last photographs of the day were taken just inches away from him. I think that alone means that I am starting to feel more comfortable doing this type of work.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

samurai photographer gets all grainy

I've extolled its virtues before, but I have to reiterate how amazing a film stock Ilford Delta 3200 is.

This is one of the shots from my 10-week project. I'm finally starting to like it, but I think I'm going to change cameras starting this week.