Aside from the fact these photos were taken in the streets, they stray far from traditional street photography. Under the July sun in Albuquerque’s downtown, I began to look for people in the streets who seemed to have a particular look to their face, not quite grimy and gritty as Bruce Gilden’s portraiture – who partially inspired me along with McCurry – but softer, honest and almost innocent looking faces. Those who have been through struggle but keep moving forward with hope.
Given my common approach to street photography is usually the stereotypical wide angle and fast movement this was a struggle at first. Asking people for permission to take their portrait one has to get accustomed to being denied permission. However little sense it makes, one man scolded me saying “it’s a violation of my privacy!” even when I had asked to take it. I’d encourage anyone to try this even once, it puts you in a more “participating” role in the streets, to say the least.
Black and white film was the obvious choice, color film could not have given me the concentrated and bare feel that I was looking for. Tri-X 400 was what I had available at the time in my freezer and in order to keep the aperture relatively large under the intense sun, a three-stop ND Filter was necessary.
A wide-angle lens would not have given me the separation I wished to have between the subject to the background, neither would a 50mm. Given the shots were stopped down to f/4, there would have been far too much distracting background detail. Then came the coveted Nikon 105mm f/2.5 lens, close focus good enough to not have to raise my voice to direct the subject, but even at f/4 there was wonderful separation.
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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.