Two women on the street, San Diego '97

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by Dick Sanders, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    I mostly do street portraits. And I made this one in 1997 of two women in a rough section of San Diego. It was about 10 in the morning, and they were drunk, possibly also high on drugs. I got the impression they had been up all night. I asked if I could make a portrait of them and one said, "Yeah, if you give us $5." I agreed and they let me make just a few frames. As soon as I paid them, they ran across the street to a liquor store.

    Please excuse the marginal quality. This is an old scan from a print. The original is very good quality, as it was made with my Pentax 6x7. Comments welcome. Thanks for looking.


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  2. Harmony

    Harmony TPF Noob!

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    Very interesting, I wonder where they are now...
     
  3. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Too true ... this one makes you wonder. Almost 12 years gone since then --- anything can have happened.
    The faces already show the signs of alcohol abuse, yet there are all the traces of love, passion, hope and desire still in their eyes, all the things they believed in and trusted and hoped for when they were still younger, and to be knowing that supposedly all their hoping and wishing was in vain and was later given to hopelessness and despair and alcohol and/or drug is sad...
     
  4. pm63

    pm63 TPF Noob!

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    I really like this. The queer look and wrinkled faces on both of them. It speaks volumes.

    I also had a look at the video linked in your sig, and I have to say I loved it. Each face told you something through the eyes (and it's a good job they all looked right into the lens) - you can get a sense of the ability to make educated guesses about the hardships in their past just by looking into their eyes. Windows to the soul indeed.

    I'd like to ask about your method for those. Do you literally walk up to someone on the street, introduce yourself and ask politely for them to pose? How often does it work for you?
     
  5. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    This is the fascination for me in doing portraiture of strangers -- I wonder about their lives and it is both mysterious and moving to me.

    Very well said, thank you. These are the things I try to capture in the faces.

    -- thanks for your comments.
     
  6. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Faces On The Street: I'm often asked this question. And I have roamed the streets, looking for interesting subjects, and done exactly as you suggest. But the success rate is very low. It's difficult to approach people on the move, they are suspicious, and you can seem to be stalking them. I found a better method is to set up in one busy spot (where the light and background are good, and even put up a seamless backdrop if needed) then ask people who pass by. They always ask, "What's this for?" I tell them it's a personal project, I love people and love capturing all the different faces. (For the 5th & Main project in Los Angeles, I told them I was working on a collection of "Faces In LA"). Most people still decline, but the success rate is much higher. Here's something I wrote on this body of work for photo blogs in Rome and Lisbon (who wrote and asked me the same thing).

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    From April of 2006 through September of 2008 I spent many Saturday afternoons at 5th & Main Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Two years ago drug dealing crews operated on this corner: it was rough by day and dangerous at night. Today, more police walk the streets, the downtown is undergoing renewal, and new shops, galleries and cafes are opening. But in the early afternoons during this time, I would set up in the shade and ask passersby if they would stand for a portrait. Most declined my request because they were in a hurry, did not wish to be photographed, or were suspicious of my intentions. To the few who did cooperate, I gave simple directions: stand here, look into the lens, please be serious. Getting a successful portrait, one that is both personally revealing and suggestive of something larger, is extremely difficult in the minute or two my subjects allow me on the street. Always I am striving to capture a "longer period of time" in their faces. But whether I succeed with the portraits or not, I love interacting with my subjects, and I am continually amazed at how some of them can reveal things very private, even painfully so, during our brief encounters. I thank them for what they have given here, and I hope in the film you will see (or feel) what we all share in common.

    Added note: On a typical 2 to 3 hour street session, I ask maybe 30 to 40 people. Of these, maybe 7 or 8 agree to stand for a portrait. Of these, I usually get one (sometimes two) successful portraits. The 31 portrait show in the YouTube video took 2 1/2 years to complete (many outings). And yet the work is so addictive, I don't feel it is done -- I want to go back and do more. One last thing: My wife wanted to see what I was doing, so I took her there. It scared her at first, but then she became addicted to the experience, as well. What's more, my success rate went up with her assisting because many people enjoyed meeting and talking to her. Trust is an important element in getting this type of portrait. And she really helped out there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  7. AverageJoe

    AverageJoe TPF Noob!

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    Heres a question, do you feel like you supported their habbit with the $5? Were you at all moral conflicted as to what they did with what you paid them?
     
  8. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Well, in this case, I didn't know what they were going to do. But I'd answer that "No" because I wouldn't presume to tell anybody how to use the money. I feel they earn it: a few minutes of their time for a few dollars. Some say they are hungry, or need money for cigarettes. Once a lady told me she'd let me take her picture for $3.32, the price of a half-pint of gin. At 5th & Main, I learned that one could buy a small crack hit for $3. But nobody said they were going to do that. Most don't say. In any case, I always try to present my subjects with dignity. And if you watch the YouTube video I think you'll see that.
     
  9. Renair

    Renair TPF Noob!

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    Hey Dick, just watched your you tube video, liked it very much.
     
  10. AverageJoe

    AverageJoe TPF Noob!

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    I am in agreement with you here, thanks for the reply.
     
  11. Dick Sanders

    Dick Sanders TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Renair: Glad you enjoyed my video. Hope you'll share it with your friends in Dublin.
     
  12. pm63

    pm63 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for explaining your methods, and good luck in the future!
     

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