PHOTOGRAPHING PEOPLE

Everett York was selling handmade barrels at the Windsor Fair in Maine. I watched him for a while and he didn’t mind me photographing him one bit.

I had borrowed a Nikon F3 and a 24mm wide angle lens. I had never used such a wide lens before and enjoyed it immensely. At the fair, I use the retro-focus settings so I could work as if using an auto-focus camera. Much fun. In 1985, few cameras had auto-focus lenses. I used a fast film, Ilford HP-5, so I could use a fairly small aperture and still get a decent shutter speed.

Everett YorkI enjoy photographing people. No two people are alike and the shutter catches every nuance differently. The act of making someone’s portrait makes them timeless…their likeness is recorded forever if one wants it so. Every second changes a person’s look, appearance and expression. The unpredictability of getting a portrait that you (or the subject) will be happy with can be unnerving, but also exciting.

I have always been a big fan of Arnold Newman and Henri Cartier-Bresson has a wonderful book of portraits title “Inner Silence”. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Rodney Smith are other favorites. I definitely prefer natural light even though I’m comfortable using strobes in a studio or on location. Artificial light always tries to mimic the effects of natural light and, even better, I like the unpredictability of using the sun as my light source.

I don’t always like my subjects smiling, it simply distorts the face too much for me. I want to see what they look like. I also seem to always gravitate towards black and white as I find the color distracting. I also like people to know I am photographing them; it’s courteous, and I seem to get better results.

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