Closer candid portraits then ever before
Earlier this year, I set my class the task of taking candid photos of people on public transport. To inspire the students I showed them the photos of one of London’s best candid photographers, Bal Bhatia, aka @mrwhisper. In his images of London’s commuters, he manages to capture real human emotion in beautifully composed images. Much more than just finding an interesting facial expression, his images have balance and harmony too. I’d never really done much candid before, so I joined in with the task too. And very quickly got hooked.
The iphone camera is so unobtrusive and people are so used to seeing other passengers gazing into their devices that very few people realise we’re taking photos of them. Which gives us a rare perspective. Especially at busy times, we can get within centimentres of complete strangers’ faces and photograph them completely naturally without them knowing. If they knew, their whole look would change. So although candid portraiture has a long tradition, we are now getting closer to people than ever. Smart phone photographers are doing things that were almost impossible before with traditional cameras.
When I ask my students to do this task, I ask them to first of all consider what they’re doing. Yes, we’re taking a photo of someone without their permission. That’s partly the point. If we asked for permission, we would lose their natural look. And what’s our motivation for wanting these photos? We’re not making fun of them or exploiting them for nefarious purposes. We want to understand our fellow citizens by looking into their faces and we want to share that understanding with our audiences. And we want to create beautiful images featuring something that never ceases to fascinate us - the human face.
ps thanks to Sandi Wiggins aka @ancestorsfound for the idea for this blog
Candid portraits: closer than ever