Even as an experienced photography-enthusiast, people remain the hardest subject for me to capture. Not only do I rarely find myself in a situation where I’ve brought my DSLRLet’s face it, it isn’t really photography if it isn’t an SLR. In my case, it’s a Sony α100, usually with my favorite Sony 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens or the all-around Sigma 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.5. And every once in a while, when I can be bothered lugging it around, my Konica Minolta 75-300mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’-lens., the social conditions have to be right as well, for me not to be considered borderline rude. And when the stars align, I pop out the camera and…
Well, we’re all a ‘cheese’‐conditioned lot, who look into the camera, smile and wait for the ‘I release you from this spell’‐click. Sure, you get people drunk, it’s another story—rabbit-ear-fingers, cheek licking and funny hats—but the basic premise remains the same; namely ‘acting’ for the camera. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it yields nice in-focus photos of happy people who’re willing to hold still long enough for me to adjust the focal length and take it up an f-stop or two to get the shot right.
But the ones I really want and the ones that stay with me, are the stolen ones. And I don’t mean paparazzi-style 1500mm gyro-mounted zoom objectives from a hilltop 2 clicks away and down into your garden where you frolic around in your birthday suit. Just friends and family being themselves, unaware of the CCD ready to reach out and snatch away their soul.
Those shots are elusive. Real life doesn’t stop while I switch from auto to manual focus; which in turn means that when they once in a blue moon do happen, they’re that much better. In fact, out-of-focus snapshots are often even better than cheese-shots by pure virtue of the intimacy of the subject(s).
When people know they’re being photographed they stiffen up somehow, suck in what can be sucked in, squint, go from ‘listening’ to ‘listening, intellectually’I do all of the above. I have checklists for it. And procedures. and lose that spark of the unexpected, the serendipitous. You could go so far as to say that they lose their ‘soul’. But that’s just silly, so I won’t do that.
Then again, maybe it’s really the other way around. By virtue of my understanding of the construction of ‘cheese-shots’; that little else is happening between the portrayed than what meets the eye, which is what makes even the most pedestrian stolen shot unexplored and unexplained territory.
What I’m driving at, is that in the end, when all else fails, a chimp will never give you the cheese-look and that’s why chimps always work.