For the longest time, I avoided taking photos of human beings like the plague. No one’s ever happy with how they look, so if they know you, they’ll be sad, and if they don’t, why are you pointing a camera in their face? I couldn’t imagine walking up to a stranger and asking them for something so terrible as their photograph—who would say yes? Would you? I’d never in a million years.
And yet, turns out that much of that anxiety is a set up for one of those “expectations versus reality” memes.
As you might recall, I deliberately devised a whole thing out of this question some months ago, to force myself out of my shell. I was surprised by people’s generosity and even joy at being asked.
During this trip, I told myself that I’d approach anyone for any reason; I’d just let my intuition guide me. And sure enough, my intuition was very discerning—several times, I thought about talking to someone, but it just didn’t feel right. Other times, my mind gave me reasons not to, while my gut disagreed.
I’m still too shy to engage much beyond that “decisive moment”; I don’t know anything about the guy at the rest stop near Hanford or the barista in Spokane—I just know that I was drawn to his serenity on that bench in the middle of nowhere and her infectious & seemingly genuine positivity so early in the morning.
He said: “sure thing, man, no problem”; she asked if she should take off her mask.
The other two portraits featured here were in Ellensburg, which I’ll write a little more about later—the funny thing to note now, though, is that this gentleman approached me, not the other way around, and precisely because he saw a camera hanging off my neck.
He talked my ear off, telling me about a great spot for photography, and sharing many quirky historical insights. Apparently, Jack Kerouac’s daughter used to work at the Palace Cafe, which made the only other portrait I’d taken in town even more special.
I think it’s so fitting that his portrait came out looking like shit—the essence of his personality was apparently beyond capture.
I hope to get better at this.