This morning I awoke with the disquieting realisation that I would have to accost at least ten strangers in the street before I could eat my egg and cress sandwiches. I was tempted to stay in bed and send in a sicknote. This is way outside my comfort zone but it had to be done. Eric Kim had set us the task of approaching complete strangers and asking them to pose for a portrait. We were to get five people to say no and five to accept. Sounds simple. I was assigned to Eric’s co-instructor, Charlie Kirk of Two Cute Dogs, and we set forth in search of victims in Russell Square and down to the British Museum.
As you can imagine, the first encounter was the worst but I found my confidence building up rapidly. I’m not sure about the results but I certainly met some great people: from Taiwan, Holmfirth, Bangkok, Japan, Wigan, Amsterdam, Isle of Wight, Ravenscourt Park, New York. Indeed, I was so busy chatting I almost forgot to take photographs. Charlie helped enormously, encouraging me to get closer to the subject, to rely on zone focus combined with manual aperture and shutter speed. Fortunately this is easily done with a simple camera such as the Leica Monochrom.
The afternoon session was devoted to assessment of the three photographs we had all submitted in advance. Criticism there was in spadefuls. My three efforts (including Mr.Broccoli, above) were comprehensively demolished. But everyone came in for constructive advice and this is perhaps the most important aspect of the course. Although tonight I don’t feel I am exactly cut out for this street-photography mullarky (I’m too nice, apparently), I am sure I will bounce back. In any case, I take pictures to please myself and, with luck, I will gradually improve technique.
The most important thing I have taken from today is that I am good at talking to people. It’s that first approach that is the most difficult but I now understand that I am actually quite good at it. And that’s not too bad for a fundamentally shy person. All I need to do now is learn to take good photographs.
Tomorrow is another day.