Archive for octobre 21st, 2010

On permission : The Vuitton dandy

jeudi, octobre 21st, 2010

One of the question I often get is whether I ask permission to my subjects before I photograph them. The answer is a straightforward no. There are two reasons for that : first, scenes unfold and fold very quickly, most of the time what attracts your eyes initially is gone in a second. If you ask for permission, that scene will be gone forever and what you recreate will simply be untrue to your first vision. Secondly and let’s face it, most people are terrible actors. Asking for permission will mean that your subjects will start to act, or at least try. Yet unless you crossed path with Sean Connery, the awful acting will also show on your picture.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at the scene below. I spotted that dandy from about 50 meters out. I then moved as discreetly as I could until I reached the postion I had selected. I quickly kneeled and took the shot, it is clearly a candid as the man attitude remained unaltered by my presence. The man then spotted me and asked me « Can’t you ask for permission first? ». I answered to him straight away that I wanted to keep the spontaneity of the scene. His reply to that was « I understand, that is a good reason ».  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/2000, ISO200

We then chatted for a while and I asked permission for a close-up portrait. This leads me to this advice :  when shooting strangers, take shots as long as you remain unspotted (if you ever are). Then deal with the reaction and do not be afraid of people. Being photographed by a stranger can be perceived as an intrusion so be ready to explain and be honest about it. People will react much better then if you simply walk away. Coming back to that man I met on Les Champs-Elysées, I think I got lucky since is acting wasn’t all that bad.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/2000, ISO200