Back in November I visited the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The museum had also put on a number of talks and events surrounding the prize, and on Saturday I was part of a small workshop group there to learn a little more about what makes a good photographic portrait. The session was led by Anthony Luvera, an Australian who teaches as well as being a working professional photographer.
It was a practical day, and so after another look around the exhibition itself, we were soon set loose onto the streets of London for a couple of assignments.
The first was to take photographs of people without consent. This isn’t a million miles away from street photography, and just to be clear, as long as the place you’re taking photographs isn’t private property and you’re not causing an obstruction, this is totally legal.
Now I’m not saying that this is always a comfortable experience. I preferred the up front and honest approach rather than holding my camera at waist height or something. I was using my old Sony A100 since my more recent camera is sadly still being fixed. But it was interesting and not to say, quite liberating going out on the streets and doing something like this.
I took many of my photos around Covent Garden which is a tourist area, so people with cameras are everywhere. But with mostly just using my 50mm lens, it was clear I wasn’t taking the scenery, but people.
The second assignment was further outside my comfort zone. That entailed going up to complete strangers and asking if they would allow me to take a photo – i.e. with consent.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard, and I’d guess with repetition it’d become easier. Again, part of me wonders that if you’re in central London with many people being visitors, that makes it easier, but people generally didn’t mind posing for a few seconds. Only one group of three men sitting having coffee in a café turned me down.
I was a little more selective about who I asked, avoiding young children and young women largely, but it was an interesting experience. One to repeat?
More photos here.