Over the years, I convinced myself making pictures of people was difficult. That led me to make photographs of things - landscapes, scenes, flowers, anything as long as there wasn't a person in the frame. I put my conviction to the test with the street photography workshops, which concentrated on making photographs of people. We were challenged to make not only anonymous photographs, but also to interact with subjects to make portraits.
I found the process really interesting. I'm not one of those chatty people who talks to strangers about absolutely everything, but I don't hesitate to interact with others and engage in conversation. Despite that, the whole idea of having an interaction then asking the person if I may make a photograph of him or her seemed like an intrusive extension of the interaction. I was very tentative at first, so the first several portraits were terrible. But they were portraits, and no person I asked declined. As time went on and I asked more and more people, no one declined, and the portraits began to improve a little. Some even embraced it, not only smiling widely, but also posing and gesturing! So, within a few short days, I totally disproved my assumption about being intrusive. I was surprised and delighted. It was especially rewarding when I showed the subject the photograph and got a positive reaction. One woman saw her photograph, smiled widely again and said, "Je suis très jolie!!!" ("I am very pretty!!!").
As I have reflected on the experience, it surprises me less and less. If I imagined myself as the person approached by a stranger with a camera and asked if s/he could make a photograph of me, my first reaction would be, "Why me?" Perhaps the individual would explain, but even if not, I'd probably then ask myself, "Why not?" and allow him or her to make the photograph.
The thing I came to love about making portraits of strangers is that each portrait has a story associated with it - a time, a place, and a set of activities that creates a special uniqueness in each portrait beyond the image of the person. I've always connected with the storytelling dimension of photography, whether capturing something of beauty, documenting an important event, or recording things I want to remember. I hadn't made the connection of the storytelling possibilities in portraits of strangers until I actually made portraits of strangers. Every one has its own story. What a way to create memories!