Places & Spaces | Week 9 With Portraits of Birmingham

The Places & Spaces project is getting more and more complicated as the weeks go on. I've hit the stage where I'm done asking my friends to shoot random portraits with me. Moving forward I want to do something a little more planned, and risky. I want the photos in some way to help people, rather they be creatives, or just someone who needs dope shots to further advertise their business. My thought process is that once they see how quality images reach a bigger audience that they'll come back hoping to shoot in the future.

This week I had an idea for a Winter styled yoga shoot, it wasn't an original idea, I was inspired through instagram and later Google, but I still thought it would be dope. I had a few people I reached out to, but no response. I did everything through social media, and maybe that's where I'm failing. I need to get out more, especially if my idea is based on businesses... Why not visit the businesses? Questions I wish I would have asked myself earlier in the week... You live in you learn I guess.

Incase you all didn't know, Tuesday is the last day of the project week, and I was had yet to find anyone to shoot. I fired off a few tweets and last minute instagram post, but to no avail. I'm still confused on why people wouldn't take advantage of free portraits, but thats another paragraph...

I had no one to shoot, and to be honest I was out of people to ask. I had a crazy idea to go to Downtown Birmingham and shoot random people, perhaps get someone to do a mini shoot with me. It seemed like a smart idea, until I arrived and saw it was a ghost town. It just so happened to be a snowstorm, so I was pretty much fucked.

I walked around a bit, I noticed a employee of a local bar shoveling snow, I wanted to approach her and ask if she'd be interested in doing a many shoot, you know snapshots of her in between, but I was too afraid ask, I told myself that she was too busy working anyway, so instead I just took some random shots from a distance of her... You can guess how those turned out.

That was a missed opportunity, and it was getting late. I noticed at that point that I couldn't be afraid to talk to people, this isn't street photography, I'm not trying to remain invisible, I want people to see me, I want them to see me taking a picture of them, not for a moment, but so they can pose and give me their best look. So I thought I'd try something different, everyone that walked passed me I was going to ask them if they mind taking a picture. I didn't know how the picture would turn out, and I didn't plan to do anything super creative. But to break the ice, and to get comfortable with people this was my assignment for the day.

The first few people told me no, discouraging, but I didn't give up, they were females, and to a certain extent I can see how my request may have been a little weird. After a few more no's I decided to work on my pitch, it went from being some long run on sentence to a simple "Hey would you mind taking a picture for my website, I really like you...*insert whatever I liked*". That seemed to work, there weren't many people outside so I did a little walking before I found people who actually said yes.

The first person to give me the okay was a gentleman waiting at a bus stop. He had some funky clothing, I was shooting with a 50mm TCL conversion lens on my Fuji X100T so I couldn't capture all of this, but I still liked how the shot came out. Despite it being less than 30 seconds these were some of the best upclose street images I've ever taken. The light was good, him as a subject was good and I was happy with the results. The poor photojournalist in me didn't get his name or give him a card, but I did gain confidence. After that whatever fear I had was just gone, I started to ask a few more people and I got some yes and no's, some shots I was happy with, other's I could care less about. I took away a lot from this brief experience. It had nothing to do with portraits or this project, but more with communication. My entire photography career has been generated on the streets, I feel that's where my best work is created and naturally what I learn from street photography gets translated into whatever other work I do. By talking to these people I realized that I don't always need to remain inconspicuous, people want to be photographed, it makes them feel good, and honestly it just gave me another opportunity to to push my brand. I received notoriety, in situations where I would naturally be invisible. Moving forward if I capture a great moment of someone, or I see an individual who really catch my eye, I'm going to stop them, let them see their image, or ask if I can take it, the worst they can do is say no, and the best thing that can happen is that they'll be interested in what I'm doing, check out my website and be a long term reader... I'll take those odds anyday.

In terms of my project, it may have not been the Yoga shoot that I wanted, but the education I received from "Portraits of Birmingham" has been equally as beneficial. Moving forward I need to sell the brand more when doing these sessions, hit up a few venues, networking events or even Yoga classes. Social media is a big part of photographer's business, but the odd fashion way may be a little more effective since no one else is currently doing it. Get out there, talk to people, introduce yourself and be seen. Thanks all.

I posted below some of my favorite from the series, check them out, then read the next few paragraphs to see what I took from this experience. You can find the entire Places & Spaces series below, as well as directions to the location from this weeks shoot.



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