Shooting portraits has ever been my dream. A dream that I barely fulfilled until now. And the main reason is that I didn’t dare doing it. I found the interaction between photographer and potential model quite difficult. In other words - I was too shy to approach people. And the idea of ‘directing’ somebody in a photoshoot felt nearly intimidating.
In the past years I have developed a little bit of chuzpe by starting to shoot street photos in Athens. On a good day I could shoot people and expose myself to the adventure of becoming part of the scenery in Athens city centre.
Eventually I started trying to find other photographers that shoot portraits and to collaborate with them. That however did not lead very far. We never got to the point of shooting together.
And then my Nikon D800 broke. And I had to decide how I wanted to replace it. Having these beautiful ideas of a Leica SL on my mind (and not the money to fulfil them) it seemed a little sobering to eventually decide to buy the latest successor model of the D800, the D850. But when I used this camera for the very first time something very unusual and unexpected happened, something that never happened with the D800 before: it clicked. I connected to this camera. And just a few days after receiving the camera I put my 85mm prime lens on it and went out to the city to shoot people.
And I really enjoyed it. I found a group of street musicians that were playing for tourists in Athens’s street restaurants. And I easily approached them, asked them if I could shoot them at work, they agreed and co-operated nicely. It was nice and easy and from there I made an appointment with the singer of this group and some friends of hers for a portrait session. This session has also happened in the meantime and I and I believe my models also enjoyed this thoroughly.
I have now bought a 70-200mm f/4.0 zoom for portrait purposes. I got it used from Ebay and apart from the zoom ring being a little too loose this lens seems to be in good shape. I just used it during a public event in Athens. And again I approached people, asked them if I could take pictures of them and took a few portrait shots. I am actually sort of enjoying the interactive aspect of this kind of photography. Talking to people, learning a little about them and making pictures of them, it all becomes a nice and interesting experience.
So what has changed? And why is this approach all of a sudden possible? I don’t know exactly. It is most likely a combination of reasons. On my photographic way I have probably dealt with this question so many times and my wish had become so strong that I was eventually ready to start doing it. On the other hand it seems that the new camera and my connection to it has also helped.
Having read a lot about portrait photography in the past months and having viewed pictures of many portrait photographers has certainly also helped. Particularly the work of Peter Lindbergh has done something for me. He has an interesting very simple style of b&w portrait and fashion photography that has impressed me a lot. I think I have learned a few things just by watching his pictures. Here is the link to his website:
So after all it seems that I have eventually arrived at portrait photography. The next steps will be consolidating, shooting more, meeting people and finding out how I can create quality pictures. And I am looking for ideas for projects. Yes - a journey. A fascinating one.