I had primarily concentrated on landscapes when I was shooting film. I didn't feel comfortable making images of strangers, and even felt awkward doing so with family and friends other than rare simple snapshots. When I decided I wanted to more seriously pursue photography, I tried to determine why I was so uncomfortable making images of people. I'm comfortable talking with people I don't know, I obviously know and have relationships with family and friends, so there clearly was something else at work. I wanted to determine what it was so I could either accept that I prefer not photographing people, or get past it. It was a goal when I decided to enroll in photography workshops. Valérie Jardin is an accomplished photographer and has a special affinity for street photography and photographing people. I felt certain that working with her in her workshops, I would get to the root of my discomfort making images of people.
I learned a lot from my first attempts. That's the euphemistic way of saying my first attempts were generally pretty bad. I wasn't in good positions to capture individuals' faces. I missed opportunities for interesting gestures, expressions, or movement as I attempted to be unobtrusive. I didn't want to seem like a paparazzo, so used a short lens. That, however, required me to get fairly close to the person whose image I wanted to make. I couldn't be unobtrusive.
There were some positive elements of my learning. When I talked with people, in most cases the person was happy, and even honored that I wanted to make a picture of her or him. And those that preferred that I not do so let me know. When I hadn't talked with the person and made an image, if he or she realized it afterwards, usually a smile, nod, or some other indicator of acceptance would come my way.
Other things happened that helped. While walking through the streets in Bayeux, France, I encountered a group of students on a school excursion. One young woman extended an invitation, making eye contact and gesturing the peace / friendship sign. I accepted the invitation and by raising my camera and making images of the students. Some, like the first young woman, engaged me directly. Others would make eye contact, resume interacting with other students, but still look my way. Others would make quick glances my way, but never look long enough to be captured as a main subject of the scene. There was one young man who moved wherever I pointed my camera, but always looked away. I captured a few good images and many that weren't so good. Most importantly, I had a blast during those five or ten minutes with the Bayeux students. My discomfort was abating.
I continued practicing making images of people during the weeks in France, and have done so since returning. I decided to focus on those of young people for this collection, in honor of and with thanks to the young woman in Bayeux.