I’m just no good at taking pictures of people – not only planned portraits of people I know, but also up close and personal candid shots of strangers, too.
Photographing people in public causes me such a lot of anguish. Over they years I’ve tried to overcome my fear of intruding into some unknown someone’s privacy, of risking maybe causing offence, resulting in the risk of creating a scene, but even when I tell myself – look, just go for it, take the damned shot – my inevitable prevarication and hesitation means either the moment has gone, or I’ve completely lost my nerve, or I take a half-hearted quick snap that is poorly framed or out of focus or just plain wrong, and I immediately regret it.
A perfect example occurred yesterday – I was walking along the street, camera in hand, and as I passed by a cafe I saw just inside, beautifully framed by the window a couple sitting together chatting quite intimately, with a rectangular neon-style “Open” sign just above their heads to the right. I could have just lifted my camera up and taken a shot from where I was, but I felt so uncomfortable I just coudn’t do it. I know that with street photography it generally is a case of ‘you snooze, you lose’, but there’s something about that potential face to face, almost eyeball to eyeball encounter I really struggle with.
So instead I tend to settle for photographing people’s backs as they walk away, or if taken from in front I do try keeping my distance so they remain unrecognisably anonymous. Like this lady with her shopping trolley, crossing a pedestrian walkway over the main road and railway. I quite like this image, but I feel I would have liked the one not taken from the cafe even better…