FEBRUARY 19, 2016 – Of the three Dogwood 52 prompt types, Portraits present a unique challenge: They require photographing another person. The subjects of Landscape or Artistic shots rarely run from a camera, but Portrait aka people? Yeah. They just might. Even with this week’s Faceless Portrait, cooperation is required to some extent.
52 WEEK PHOTO CHALLENGE
Week 7: Portrait/Faceless
Tell someone’s story without showing their face.
Some folks (my feller included) aren’t comfortable asking to take someone’s picture. In fact, Brian stopped participating during week 4 (take a “selfie” of another person) because he couldn’t bring himself to do it. There’s always the option of photographing some random person as I did, but he wouldn’t feel right about that either. I’m used to it, but pointing a camera at a stranger does bring up an interesting issue: Is it right to take someone’s picture without their knowledge and post it on a public forum like Facebook?
Several participant discussions have made their way into the chatter room about this topic. As a photojournalist, shooting in public places is something I do everyday. In case you’re wondering, it’s entirely legal to photograph someone without consent or release as long as it’s in a public place without an expectation of privacy, like say, a bathroom.
I do have personal caveats, though.
If someone ducks from my camera or makes a visible show of not wanting their picture taken, I don’t. And certainly if someone asks not to be photographed, I don’t. Anything else is fair game.
I did, however, have issue with the picture I planned to use for this challenge, one I grabbed during week 2 in anticipation of this Faceless Portrait prompt.
Here it is.
A man, passed out on a sidewalk mattress outside a liquor store, drunk, in South Los Angeles. Talk about telling a story. I know he was drunk because a short time after I shot this photo, he woke up, and staggered toward our live shot, yelling and belligerent. To his credit, though, he did tilt the mattress up against the wall to clear the sidewalk.
When I went to post this photo on Facebook, something didn’t feel right. It felt intrusive. As a photojournalist I sometimes have to be, but shooting for fun? No. The image made me uncomfortable. I wanted something less depressing. As my feller said, “This isn’t you.”
I grabbed the camera again, and Sunday, while Brian fiddled with a spigot at his work bench, I took this shot.
But really, I’d rather save this concept for:
- When he’s working on something cooler.
- Week 10’s Environmental Portrait.
- A little better lighting.
As luck had it, Tuesday afternoon while covering a trial, legendary courtroom sketch artist Bill Robles asked to use my newsvan’s front seat to finish his sketches.
I happened to be fiddling with my lenses, working on a focus issue, and shot some test shots to check sharpness. Later that afternoon, when going over the images, I realized I’d shot an entire series of faceless portraits. Well… not entirely “faceless” since Bill was drawing faces, but don’t you love that element? I do.These images made me much happier than the passed out drunk. Oh, and I actually did ask Bill for permission to post since his drawings are copyrighted images. He kindly agreed.
About Bill. For 45 years, he has covered some of the most significant Los Angeles court cases, from the Manson trial, to the Menendez Brothers, Michael Jackson, Rodney King, the list goes on and on. Along with being immensely talented, he’s a lovely human being. Click this link to watch a fantastic story about Bill, put together by my colleagues Khallid and John.
As for photographing strangers in the future? Questions or not, I likely will do so again in this challenge, but perhaps avoiding the depressing images. My lens sees enough of that in the news world.
Until next week’s Panoramic Landscape…