The fear of photographing strangers.

Imagine you see an interesting person in the street and you intuitively feel that it would be a beautiful portrait. Nothing easier – walk up, introduce yourself, ask if you can.

If only it were that easy… Many photographers have a big problem with it.

Fears are triggered: I don’t know how he’ll react; he might think I have bad intentions; he’ll float me away; he won’t give me a chance to finish my sentence; I won’t convince, I’ll get entangled and come across as a fool.

Do you know it? I’ve been portraying for years, and I still happen to feel this way.

When clients come to my studio for the headshots or portraits, it is always their initiative. When I want to do a portrait for my project, I arrange the situation, it’s my idea and it’s up to me.

A portrait is about meeting, establishing a relationship deeper than just a passing conversation.
For a portrait to have a chance to be good, deep, in my opinion, I should open myself up first. The photographer begins this relationship. I try to be honest, straightforward and curious about the other person. I stand in this openness, hoping not to be met with strong opposition.

In the portraiture, personality is important to me; what is outside is a manifestation of what is inside. I try to capture character, a certain trait, those qualities that have caught my eye and enthralled me. This means that I get close (not only in the physical sense), I speak openly about what I see, I arrange the situation as simply as possible. I want my intentions to be clear and the situation to be real. I won’t be able to make an interesting portrait if I don’t establish an understanding with the person I want to portray.

If I’m photographing for the One People Story project, the situation happens here and now, which sometimes makes me act by surprise. These are spontaneous street encounters or in the context of being together – at a concert, event, etc. I always get in contact with the person photographed and get back to them as I complete the process of creating an analogue image.
On the other hand, if I invite someone to participate in the Beautiful People series, there is a little more time to think things through before we meet in my Portrait Studio. I always let the person know how to prepare for the session, we start the session with coffee, there is time for conversation. I am committed to making the person feel comfortable in the space of my Studio, I take things slowly.

How to start? By smiling, introducing yourself, specifying what you want to do. I always ensure my intentions are good, I have nothing photographically to hide and you can have a glance at what I do on my website.

Have I ever met a definite rejection? No, but it will probably happen to me sooner or later. It is not a rule that people always say ‘yes’. Luckily, I hear a lot of good words: “you made me happy”, “I was very surprised but happy”, “you made my day, I felt great”.
Then I experience joy, too. I feel that we are entering some kind of exchange process, I feel excited and curious what we will create together.

I’m learning to listen to my intuition, it cannot, after all, give me wrong cues. If it signals that it is this character and this moment, I know that by being a coward I will lose the chance of a nice meeting and a good portrait. How many times it happened… I think there are still more portraits that have only existed in my imagination than these that have finally been created.
I hope to reverse this result one day.

Header photo by Eric van Nieuwland.

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