The task: shooting people while at work, 2 different subj., max 40 pics. each.
Black and white, manual focus, manual settings. 35 or 50mm. Max 400 ISO.
I have only been properly thinking about this project in the last few days as fear has made me procrastinate for a long as possible. I have never really engaged with people while shooting, as I tend to shoot in complete human absence, and although I know I need to learn, this has been a very difficult assignment for me.
On the one hand there was the whole ‘manual’ issue. I have always relied on the camera to sort things out. I tend to shoot with the standard lens 18-55 with priority on aperture (usually f5.6), so I never really needed to worry too much about exposure. I know how to use manual, and I have used it when shooting at night sometimes, but this was very much new to me.
Also, I had never tried manual focus, but I have to say, I am really glad I had to use it. I felt for the first time in complete control of the camera and I really want to get better at using it. I missed the focus many times, but this being my first time, I think I did a decent job.
On the other hand, there was the problem of finding people.
I admit having asked a friend to come with me on the first day of shooting. I am terrified of pissing people off, and I am extremely uncomfortable taking their pictures.
Part of that is given by the fact that I don’t feel at all confident as a photographer – I don’t believe I am one and therefore I don’t think I have any right to take those pictures. When I talk to people I end up being extremely apologetic and I realise perfectly well that this kind of attitude won’t take me very far. I do tend to be like that in everyday life: unless I feel I have ‘earned to right to be somewhere’, even in a person’s life, I’ll tend to feel out of place and look for a gateway as quickly as possible. I am often the first not to trust people, so I understand I may not send out the most positive of vibes when I am out and about.
I guess this task has really taken me out of my comfort zone as a person, as I really needed to push myself and not just practically ask people but change my initial attitude towards them.
The first subjects I manage to find were the BIg Ben Fisheries workers and I had to use all my feminine charm to convince them.
The Fisheries are located in East Street Market and I walk past it every day on my way to the Library.
The guys were not too convinced at first, but somehow allowed me to hang out with them and eventually warmed up to me. Towards the end they were very helpful, asking me if I needed to take pictures of other areas of the shop, and were very keen to look at the pictures. I think it’s a real shame that the pictures must be in black and white.
One of the initial reasons why I wanted to photograph the Fisheries was the variety of shapes and textures given by the presence of the fish, the ice, the metal. I think it was an interesting setting in which to shoot and I believe that colour really add to the overall feeling. That’s why I am posting the photos here in colour.
All in all, this has been a great experience, because it has given me much more confidence when approaching people for photography.
For my second subject I really wanted to try something completely different. Ideally I wanted to try and shoot indoor, but the weather was so nice it was a shame to waste it, so I hit the road. Having been stopped by charity workers asking for donations I took the chance to ask them to shoot them, but of course I was not allowed to – because the charity does want its brand photographed for God-knows-what. I tried in different shops, but no-one was willing to help me out. Most people, it seems, do not think they are ‘good enough’ subjects to photograph, or use that as an excuse because they are too scared. I find very often people do not listen: they only pick up a few words and draw their own conclusions.
In bigger shops, the chief executive has to be called, or the media department, or someone else, and I have realised that for these kind of projects one wastes so much time just knocking on doors to get nothing!
At least when photographing abandoned places, there are no doors!