Portraits of strangers

One thing to know about me is that I’m terribly shy, even behind a camera. I never know if I should just point my camera at people and shoot or ask for permission. They say it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but the thought of a random person on the street getting mad at me (and maybe even asking me to delete the photo I just took – on a film camera!) is terrifying. Then again, when asking for permission, you risk annoying people anyway, or just not getting a good photo because they’ll be posing now that they know they’re being photographed.

Lately I’ve been trying to get more comfortable taking photos of strangers, and decided to start with the second option, of asking permission. So far, it’s been working all right, though I’ve only tried it a couple of times. One of my strategies has been to start with people who are accustomed talking to people: street vendors. I figure they’ll be more comfortable getting approached than other people just passing by.

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This woman was at the Oldtime Rural Traditions Fair I talked about in one of my previous posts. She gladly allowed me to take her photograph, though she lamented: “It’s a shame that I’ve already packed most things and my tent is almost empty! You should have come by here earlier!”

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This man was at another fair, called Senhor de Matosinhos. They had a tent right in front of where I bought my dinner and, while waiting in line with some friends, I gathered the courage to ask him if I could take his picture. He was so amused with my request that he even convinced his wife to let me photograph her too (below).

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So far, no one I’ve asked to photograph has refused, but then again, I haven’t asked that many people yet. Eventually, my plan is to become comfortable taking photos of any stranger (except children, of course), either with permission or forgiveness. If you’re shy or anxious like me, I encourage you to try getting out of your comfort zone: ask strangers to take a photo of them. It’s not as scary once you do it a couple of times, it gets easier everytime! Just be polite and most people will find it amusing enough to accept. If you’ve already managed to find the courage to just point your camera at people and shoot without asking, please teach me your ways, oh wise master!

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