Entrance to the Exhibition.
Blog #110 11/13/2015
Beverly and I were in the vibrant northern Italian city of Milan last May to attend the opening of a retrospective exhibition of my work at the Milan Triennial.
The “Installation’ of the photographs in an architectural design.
A “fish-eye” view from the entrance.
The exhibition received many visitors
Was she a dancer explaining just how to perform such a pose?
Photographing my “Last Supper, Underwater” image
We had time to walk the streets, I, as usual, with my camera. We came upon this group of what I think was a paramilitary group of the Carabiniere (national police). At first, playing tough guys, they looked at me with disdain – another tourist taking pictures. So I took their macho attitude as a portraitist’s challenge and a lucky opportunity.
Getting through the barrier they put between us might have been too daunting to try, but what a great looking group: How could I not at least make an attempt?
In order to get good pictures on the street of people who may not be comfortable having a stranger aim a camera at them, there are certain lessons I’ve learned. First, despite some initial resistance, I’ve found that just about anyone is willing to have his or her photograph taken. In fact, in this age of the ever-present digital snapshot and iPhone selfie, most people are accustomed to having a camera aimed at them and may even feel flattered. The challenge is to make it easy and natural for them to say, “Sure. yes” to the stranger behind the lens.
But when there’s tacit resistance, as there was with this group, the key is to be a bit seductive. I said, “You guys look fantastic! Can I take your picture, all of you? It would be great!”
All it took was for one of them, proud he understood my English, to tell the others it would be cool.
The second lesson, and it is the professional photographer’s dirty little secret, is to take a lot of photographs and to show real enthusiasm. After each click, I said, “Beautiful! “Fantastic!” I did all I could to make each one feel like a star. I smiled, laughed with appreciation and constantly complimented them.
And, finally, as they grew more comfortable, I began directing them, using the English-speaker as my assistant. After each photo I asked them to change their positions and poses, moving my own feet to show them what I meant, and giving them some ideas. “Okay,” I said, “now look cool, like you’re talking to a beautiful woman.” I asked them to be tough, suspicious, even funny. Little by little, the chance encounter evolved into a formal portrait session; though outside on an unfamiliar street, I might have been in my own New York studio. Photographing strangers is bound to be an adventure virtually every time.
Finally, this was the announcement of the show “BODY POWER.”