People and the Stories They Tell

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When I started shooting portraits, I made a conscious choice to call the people who were gracious enough to let me point a camera at them as subjects. Not models, but subjects. I understand that I maybe quibbling over semantics, but this has largely influenced how I approach the process of making pictures of people.

The word model conjures a different public perception; one that is actually closer to the more glamorous profession of hawking fashion. I’ve noticed that most people feel a bit uncomfortable when they’re being referred to as such. I find that I get more positive responses if I asked people if they’d be interested in being one of my subjects. After all, we’ve been the subject of pictures at some point or another. Case in point, I believe Cindy, a poet, wouldn’t sit for me if I asked her to ‘model’; instead of telling her that I’d appreciate 15 minutes of her time to meet, chat and shoot a couple of frames in between.

However, I believe that this way of thinking does so much more for me as the photographer. Thinking of the person in front of my lens as the subject of the picture changes my perspective. She isn’t a vehicle for selling some product nor is she merely an element of composition in the frame. The picture is about her. It tells her story. Or more accurately, my version of it.

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