“Can I take your photograph, please?” – one simple question and you’re suddenly invited in to someone’s life for a few minutes, a couple of hours or sometimes for days, with one simple answer – “yes”. People very rarely say no. I’ve been asking men and women if I can take their photo for years, that’s hundreds, probably thousands of people, and in all that time I think I’ve been knocked-back a maximum of 10 times. I never ask why, that’s not my business, but I’m pretty sure the barman I asked in Camden, London, was working illegally and the lady in Ullapool, in the far north west of Scotland, assumed I was a pervert…
Photographing strangers, or even people you hardly know, isn’t easy, nobody ever said it was. You need to get out of your comfort zone and actually force yourself to start shooting. People often tell me that they feel foolish or embarrassed or that by asking someone if they can take a picture of them is somehow invading their privacy. You aren’t invading anyone’s privacy by asking and if you feel that self-conscious that it makes you think you look foolish, then I’m afraid you should stick to remote landscape photography.
What feels worse? The brief, awkward introduction? Or the long, nagging feeling that you should have asked, but didn’t, and missed the shot forever…?
All the images here were shot in Yellowknife, Canada, as part of an ongoing project. Yellowknife has to be the easiest place I’ve been to for approaching strangers, not a single person said no, some didn’t even ask me what I was doing, they just said, “Yeah, sure! Where do you want me?!”. Some of the people here I’d known for a few hours, some I’d just met.
All images were made using a Mamiya 7II medium format camera, 80mm f4 lens and Fuji Pro 400H film. For the 4th image down I lit the subject using a Vivitar 285hv flash (direct)