TheMOFMan’s Answer to Thursday’s Special: Street Photography/Portraits

Black and white street photography

Life Is . . .

I thought that I’d take on this challenge by Yvette on Paula Borkovic’s blog Lost in Translation.

I find photographic portraiture quite challenging as there is considerable effort placed on trying to capture and convey someone’s true character. It’s terribly hard to accomplish when you know that most others who see it may never meet the subject face-to-face in real time for a chance to try to get to actually know him or her.

For a recent example that caught the attention of much of the western world, we saw the glamorous portraits of Caitlyn Jenner by Annie Liebovitz. Rhetorical questions; without knowing the history behind those pictures – without reading the article in the July 2015 issue of Vanity Fair, did we see Caitlyn’s true personality in those shots (being a lifelong Star Wars fan, I also really dig the cast portrait that Annie shot for the cover of VF’s June 2015 issue)? If we did, can we take a camera and accomplish that ourselves? It’s a pretty high benchmark to reach when you really think about it, huh?

Now try street portraiture. If your intent is to convey how someone exists in their most natural public setting, doesn’t that make your job as a portraitist all the more harder?

Sure, I do the occasional street portrait that is the typical head or profile shot, and while they may be technically accurate, maybe bring out the personalities of people on the street and even be pleasing to the eye the results really are limited if I don’t get that environmental factor in place.

That’s the operative word right there . . . “environmental”.

If I want to make sure that my own street portraiture counts as street portraiture, I push myself to rely on the skills needed for environmental portraiture.

I don’t consider the above shot as top-notch but I think it is okay for this challenge, and illustrates my point.


22 thoughts on “TheMOFMan’s Answer to Thursday’s Special: Street Photography/Portraits

  1. I love it. I saw the same man with a can before. It does illustrate your point. Until you and Yvette came up with your challenges I only took shots of people once for “friends” challenge. I have to admit that I don’t feel comfortable taking photos of people on streets (especially with hubby hovering over me repeating: somebody is going to sue you, or beat the hell up of you or me :D), but I know that in time I’ll dare to take more 🙂 Thank you very much, Allan for joining me this time. P.S. I look forward to posting on 28th. Then I will have three B&W street portraits that I think you might like.

    • After all the years that I’ve been engaged in SP, I still have those senses of apprehension and hesitation. It has never gone away but I have been able to control it by reminding myself that one day I’d only look back and regret never taking the chance. That’s a prospect that I simply cannot live with.

      Additionally, I’ve faced circumstances in which I learned that I may have been able to improve life, even if only very slightly, had I merely composed and displayed some shots of an aspect of a community that desperately needed the attention.

      Yes, there’s a thrill for me in doing this but I don’t do it mainly for the thrill. There is a practical, educational public service-like component to SP that is extremely important to me.

  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Street Portraits (response to Guest Challenge) | Lost in Translation

  3. Pingback: Guest challenge: Street Photography/Portraits | Lost in Translation

  4. You’ve brought a lot of thoughts. Different thoughts. Oddly enough, I usually never think about these issues in the context of images in standard magazines. Much more then when I see the street photo.
    As your image. Why are all sitting there on the ground in their respective booths. 🙂

    • Yes, those dividing walls are actually buttresses for the outside of the shopping mall where these people are sitting. The DOF of the lens I used makes them seem much closer to each other than they actually are. The elements do create a compartmentalized and isolated look when viewed from this perspective. It’s so typical of urban living. We are so close to each other and yet so far.

  5. It might not be “top notch”, but I think it is really excellent, enough environment to support the main subject. I think it’s really excellent, Allen.

  6. This image goes right to you point. This is definitely an environmental portrait. In particular I am captivated by the man leaning forward with a can of soda. He seems to be in great agony, maybe he is just tired of the city that surrounds him?

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