Back in 2009 we featured Flickr friend, Tyla Arabas, in ‘Londonist behind the lens‘ and found out she’d done a 365 self portrait project and was embarking on 52 photowalks of London. This year she turned to street portraits and having shot 100 Londoners, she shares some favourite photographs and stories from the project so far.
At the beginning of this year I came across Clay Enos’ video about shooting street portraits and was fascinated. He gives plenty of useful advice on how to stop people and how to speak to them. Not long after that an invite to take street portraits was posted in the London Strobist Group. I never thought I’d be able to go out into the street, stop strangers and ask to take their photo, yet now I do it almost every weekend.
I will never forget my first stranger. The buzz of asking for a photo, trying to fight my embarrassment only to hear ‘no’ in response. I thought ‘gosh, this isn’t for me!’ but then another person came along and I got all excited again only to get another ‘no’. Soon enough I found that a smile and a bit of cheek helps when stopping people and you learn not take a rejection too personally.
My worst street portrait day was one Friday in June when every single person made their excuses and refused my request. It hurt my pride but I got back on the street the following day and took some amazing portraits. It’s worth it in the end. I have been privileged to meet a lot of fabulous people during my project.
The most interesting person to date must be ‘Barnardo’s Child‘, a regular at Columbia Road since 1953. He is an elderly gentleman with a life full of stories. Adpoted from Barnardo’s, he still lives in the house that belonged to his adoptive parents. He doesn’t own a computer and does not have a bank account but does he have stories to tell! Say hello to him when you see in Columbia Road next time. He loves company.
The strangest encounter had to be the elderly gentleman in Weymouth who agreed to pose for us in exchange for us taking his ‘Religion or Salvation’ leaflet. I am not big on religion so taking a photo in exchange for a bit of religion indoctrination felt like cheating but you do what you have to do to get the best shots.
Tyla is now putting together a collection of London portraits for a coffee table album about London. If you would like to feature in it or you know someone who you feel should be include in her London collection, please contact her through her website or Flickrmail her.