Why I Focus on People and Portraits

At the end of the ‘Everyday Inspiration” course, as a wrap-up, I could choose to revisit a previous assignment. On Day Fifteen, the prompt’s idea should have come from one of my readers.

I had missed seeing the suggestion from Jo and later on, Debbie sent more suggestions as well.

Please, don’t forget to visit their blogs, Restless Jo (walk and travel with Jo, enjoying beautiful landscapes and meeting her community of blogger-friends) and Spaceship China (learn about China through the eyes of Debbie, an Australian living there).

Now, let’s get back to my assignment. Jo asked me to write about where my focus comes from.

Jo asked me a difficult question that leads me first to self-reflection, for I may or may not be as focused as she thinks.

As Debbie made many suggestions, I will also answer to one of hers: “Why are you called to take photographs of people, especially elderly people, and how do you feel about taking photographs of people you don’t even know?”

I’ll go for a combo answer of focus and photos. Some of you know that I love to shoot portraits, especially of elderly people.  These are photos of a very fine Frenchman, the father of a beloved friend of mine. I visited them in Normandy, where he lives, and there he let me snap countless photos, whilst laughing and being intrigued about my focus and interest to shoot him, nonstop.

Focus? I don’t know, Jo, how to explain that. I seem to get very concentrated and determined when I’m doing something I set myself to do and can go on for a long time until I finish it. I won’t hear if people talk to me, or will, but not pay attention to them, as I’ll be devoted to my goal, my mission. I work like that, and I behave in the same way, when cooking, photographing, writing, reading, etc. I imagine that most people do the same if they do what they want to do. But if I must or have to do something, I don’t seem to show the same focus.

Back to my choice of photographic subject, and perhaps running the risk of repeating myself, all I can say is that first, people are interesting to me, alive or in photos. Observing people is a fascinating activity. When in conversation, I’m looking for new perspectives, new ideas, new angles, that I can learn from. When observing people, I’m looking at our uniqueness and diversity as mankind. We behave in predictable ways but not always, and that’s what I pay attention to.

Why elderly people? In conversation or shooting, they are delightful, if they’re not at odds with life.  They struck me as pure, but not like children. Children are spontaneous, still discovering and exploring with no preformed idea of what they will find. Elderly, on the contrary, are spontaneous, for having seen it all, and having liberated themselves from other’s opinions and expectations. They have a story to say. And I am curious not only to know it but to be inspired by their experiences.

Debbie wanted to know why I shoot people I don’t know. I have been asked this question before and I’m aware of the moral, ethical and legal nuances behind the question. From what I have researched, every professional photographer, or photojournalist does that and sells the photos. It is not illegal. The question seems to arise more strongly when amateurs do the same.

Apparently, if you are Cartier Bresson or Anne Leibovitz, it’s ok to do street candid shots. In the world of photography, there is a license for candid photography.

What I do is both “street” and “consented”, candid photography, as an amateur photographer, and for that, I don’t commercialize my photos. I like candid photos because they are not posed but natural. My first action is to approach people, engage in conversation, and ask for their permission. If they agree, I keep talking and shoot without them noticing.

But sometimes, I’m just passing by a scene that interests me and have a few seconds to compose a photo of a moment or of someone whose facial expression spoke to me.

Like this photo of this man who I snapped during a ferry boat journey in Portugal.

I focus on art, on beauty.

Those are the street candid shots I make.

Even though I’m not disrespectful nor misuse the photos I make, I’m very much interested to hear your opinion about street candid shots.

Jo and Debbie, thank you very much for engaging with me, giving insightful suggestions and inspiring me to write.

Debbie went wild and here are her other prompts , which I will use for future posts.

  1. More Red Bridge photos and backstory.
  2. Why are you called to take photographs of people, especially elderly people, and how do you feel about taking photographs of people you don’t even know?
  3. What’s life really like in Amsterdam?
  4. How do the famous canals affect everyday life in your town?
  5. What’s most important to you, family or friends?
  6. What draws you back to blogging?
  7. Just cause I like the number seven. What does the number seven mean to you, if anything? Or what is your favourite number and why? Or why you couldn’t care less about numbers if that is the case.
  8. What sort of flowers grow wild in Amsterdam?
  9. What’s like being in the European Union and what do people think about the whole Brexit stuff?
  10. What birds sing over there? Photos, please.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layered

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Sharing sights & insights captured with diverse angles. Ex-corporate, now my own boss. Cycling, hiking, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photography, are no longer only hobbies listed on my resume. It's what I do when I want.

20 thoughts on “Why I Focus on People and Portraits

  1. Debbie sounds great! I’ll have to hop over and meet her soon. Up to my ears in Monday walk comments and we were booked to fly with Monarch to the Algarve on the 11th of this month, so some of the day was spent rearranging flights, etc. 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for the link and the kind comments, Lucile. It is much appreciated, and I do realise that I posed quite a hard question. Thanks for trying to answer it. Debbie’s were more fun. 🙂 Have a great week!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh no, Jo, I saw it on TV last night. I’m sorry to hear about that and happy that you rearranged your flights, hopefully without extra costs.
      It was my pleasure to reply to your question. Sharing your blog with my readers is a gift and I trust that they will enjoy it as much as I do.
      Enjoy a lovely week.


  2. I think this is the thing you do best, Lucile. I, too, wonder about the legality and why it seems only to be an issue for “others.” I think that now, at least in the States, there are starting to be laws about taking photos of children, at least that’s what I read/heard somewhere. Haven’t really followed up on it, as I do mostly nature and not of it has complained yet. 🙂


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Janet. Regardless of the country laws, I make a point of never shooting children I don’t know and prefer to not post photos of my acquaintances neither. It is too sensitive to expose children’s on the Internet.
      You’re lucky that Nature hasn’t complained yet! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He was all smiles, and you noticed that Lois. He was laughing at me the whole time, not convinced of my choice to shoot him. But I think he was enjoying it at the same time, as I got his most sincere smile.
      Thanks for the loveliest compliment, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What I have always loved about your photography, Lucile, is not only the art of your images, but the context you give the images with your wonderful words. Amazing photographers are a dime a dozen, whom I respect, but not all are writers of your caliber. And I also would like to say happy 3 year Blogoversary to us…we both met in October during Photography 101 in 2014! So happy you are back to sharing your wonderful words and photos, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Terri, I’m humbled and grateful for your considerate comment. It’s been three years of learning to blog and the best way to know if I’m in the right direction, and doing something meaningful, is via the feedback from readers like you, who have accompanied me throughout the journey.
      I feel blessed, thankful and privileged to have met you during the course, and for our continuous connection and friendship.
      Happy anniversary to us!

      Liked by 2 people

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