Travel Photography: Portraits

SONY DSC
Here’s a young guy I met at the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.  Love all those rings.

While I’m on the topic of travel photography….Portraits–don’t even get me going on what a challenge I have getting good portraits of people I meet while traveling. Yet, there’s nothing more interesting than faces. Portraits are worth the effort because photography lacks a greater sense of place without them. Sure there are beautiful landscapes, artistic still lifes—food!—and some fun shots of people from a distance but those close-up photos of faces are what really tell a story and give an impression of the folks who inhabit any place—from Minneapolis to Morocco.

SONY DSC
A resident of the Acoma Pueblo, “Sky City” in New Mexico.  This face tells a thousand Native American stories.
SONY DSC
The concentration on Chuck Berry’s face shows what a challenge it was for the aging rock n’ roller to play his famous tunes.

I’m kind of chicken. It’s hard to get right up close to people you don’t know, but that’s what it takes for a good portrait. Up close, the subject may become more stiff and self-conscious so sometimes I take the photo from a distance, maybe when they’re not looking, and just crop the heck out of it later. If I’m lucky it won’t be blurry.  Ultimately, it just takes a few extra seconds–and a little bravery–to get a better shot.

SONY DSC
Not the best portrait, but I want everyone to know I really was this close to Girard Butler.

Also, there’s the etiquette and ethics of portraiture. I’m getting better, but it’s a challenge to ask people that may not speak my language if I can take their picture. Some people just hate to have their picture taken, sometimes for religious reasons. Often, the more exotic looking (or sometimes the more downtrodden looking) the person, the more dramatic the photo.  Am I taking advantage of them or invading their privacy? In Morocco, I was told not to pay children for their pictures because it encourages them to forego school for money-making photo opps.

 

One way I’ve found to get good portraits is to buy something the person is selling or simply put a few coins in a street entertainer’s music case. And, if my potential photo subject is in business, like a bartender or shopkeeper, they’re usually happy to cooperate.

SONY DSC
The folks at Lake Drum Brewing in Geneva, New York, were happy to show off their bar and their beer.
SONY DSC
The owner at Prison Brews in Jefferson City, a delightful brewpub right next door to the infamous Missouri State Penitentiary.
SONY DSC
I always question how much of a person’s environment to show….

 

Version 2
…more or less? as with the case with Giuseppe, an artist from whom I purchased a little Leaning Tower painting in Pisa, Italy.

When all else fails, animals are usually very eager to pose for a portrait, no questions asked.

SONY DSC
A noble hound at Chateau Cheverny in France.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Travel Photography: Portraits”

Tell Me What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s