I knew I had not updated this blog for some time. Now that I looked back, I realise it has been a month (though it felt a little longer than that), with the last post being a series of photos of Katei, the Rock Violinist, in action on Melbourne street. Today, I caught up with him, over a cup of coffee, on a Tuesday afternoon when business tends to be slow for buskers like him. I had a chance to hear his feedback and how he responded to my images. I was curious, as he is used to having photographs taken from years of his professional work. We also talked about life as artists, as individuals, and how we open it up to the world.
Just looking back to what I’ve been up to since I last photographed him… I went for a quick trip to Sydney on a weekend, to have coffee with a few people.
A couple of photo shoot jobs came my way. (Thank you very much!)
Photographing Natalie’s First Communion Day gathering was a lot of fun. Google Map had a wrong block pinned so I was in a building 200 metres up the road talking to my client before I could figure out where they actually were, although I got there 15 minutes early and sent an SMS saying I was outside the SMS was never seen as they did not have that phone! Despite the late arrival, people were kind and accommodating. I got to photograph this family’s little princesses a few years back but this time they have grown up, and surrounded by loving family and relatives. I focused on capturing the candid shots, and I managed to come out with absolute classics.
I particularly love those photos. Oops, there goes your balloon!
This is one of my favourite shots in a long time. There are so much message in the body language, empty plate, a folk in hand, her arms spread in a classic ‘what have I done?’ protest posture, and a man’s finger pointed right at her, while she’s got a back against her wall… I’m really pleased I was able to respond to this moment.
And I love this shot for a different reason. I just think it is so funny! What do you think?
Thank you so much Milad, for the opportunity. I hope to work with you and your family again soon. Just love your beautiful family!
Then October came. It got very warm. We pulled out T-shirts from the back of wardrobe. And it got not so warm, again. We were back wearing coats and glad we did not put away the warm blanket. Typical Melbourne.
Then I had an opportunity to photograph a function that was held in this beautiful venue.
That’s me standing in for my own test shot after the lighting was set up before guests arrived. Do I look okay?
Well, you won’t see me in a suit like that very often! When you’re running around a venue with one or two cameras down your neck, this is really not a practical working outfit. You’re more likely to find me show up in dark jeans and dark polo shirt. But if you need me dressed up for your event photo shoot, please discuss with me before hand. At the end of the day, if I am comfortable, I am more prepared to focus on making great images for you…
The sun was back to the city. Everyone was hanging out in the sun.
… or riding in it.
People like to pose when a photo is being taken. They force a smile. Cheese!
But really, how often do you find yourself looking into such a photo later and say, well, that’s me in a picture. Not, ‘ah, that’s me!’.
I get tense and nervous when people take a picture of me. I try to relax, I try not to force myself to smile. But some girls tell me I should smile more often, I look really good when I smile. So… clearly there is that natural expression and there is that ‘for the photo’ fake one.
My approach to people photography, on family snaps, functions, or even something that sits more in ‘portraiture’ in classification, I aim at capturing people when they are paying very little attention to me or my camera. Generally I work in close distance, using relatively wide angle lens, so it’s not like I can stay out of their peripheral scope. But as many street photographers in history sited, it is possible to become invisible by having them aware of you all the time, get used to your presence, and you just become part of the surroundings…
I aim to make that happen when I’m working with people like Katei, an artist who is conscious of photographers around him, who is performing his work when I’m pointing my camera at him, and has audience to worry about. He says he likes photos I took of him relaxed and chatting with his audience. I also catch him from just behind his shoulder in some shots, looking for his sense of the world, how the strings and audience beyond sit in his view, but at the same time, I am not within his view so I can just capture his body language, the way he really feels, without putting up that fake smile.
In Natalie’s Communion Day shoot, I used a zoom lens a lot. While I capture the sense of space using wide, I was also working with people who’s never seen me before, and did indeed put up that ‘photo smile’. I focused on capturing them during their conversation with each other, their interaction with their babies, or even choosing the moment when they were laughing about something among themselves rather than all of them smiling obligatory to my camera, looking down on them from me standing on top of a chair. At the end of the day, I think we all agree which photo is more attractive. Which photos show more of real you. I do not think we need to look like we know how to stand straight and smile at the same time so a camera can go ‘click’. My task is finding a way to catch people off guard, so I can capture them as they look most beautiful.
Billy Joel’s old song comes back to my mind. He did not like singing it on live performances because it was a very personal song about his relationship, which later ended with a divorce. But hey, we still love how romantic he was, and I just have to agree with him: I love you just the way you are.
It’s been a pretty good month. I hope I have something interesting and more exciting photos to share with you by the time I write another blog post. It could be a picture of you and your loved ones. Please let me know if you want me to cover your family or organisation event. Just book me early as I’m (belatedly) planning a trip to get away from here (and get to update my travel blog for once!).