Zack and Old Dogs

A photographer most of you know and if you don’t shame on you, is Zack Arias out of Atlanta. Zack was in New York recently and gave himself an assignment to shoot 10 portraits of 10 strangers in 10 hours. For some of us this is not hard, for others this is a complete nightmare.

There are two reasons why I am blogging about this. First, is many of you who read this blog want to shoot photos on the street and this means taking pictures of complete strangers. So this is a topic you are interested in. I get quite a few emails asking me what it takes to shoot good street portraits. I have gotten to the point where now all I do is point people to a few past post I did on the subject HERE, HERE and HERE. At one time I thought I might write an ebook of the subject. But the fact of the matter is there is just not enough to write about. It really boils down to getting up the nerve and going up to someone and asking them to let you snap a few shots of them. Sure, you have to watch your lighting, how you frame your subject, composition etc.. But the bulk of it is nerves. Just as Zack say’s “there are times you have to get over your anxiety about talking to strangers and pursue what it is you want to do.” In other words, just do it.

The other point I want to bring out is Zack, a pro, a seasoned working photographer still gives himself assignments. Why does he do this? He wants to stay fresh and maintain his creative edge. If we keep to what we know we do not grow. We remain stagnate and definable. Gavin Gough likes to say to me, “That is a very Brandon-esque shot.” I cringe! I hate hearing those words. Yes, many of us have a style. But for some reason I don’t like being defined by my style. I feel boxed in. One way to combat that is to keep pushing the bound and trying new things. Old dogs can learn new tricks. But, without a master, you have to be a self directed old dog.

I know several top shooters and all of them do this. They all give themselves assignments. If you stop growing, check your pulse. Ruff!

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6 Comments

  1. Micki

    I'm running across more and more photographers these days that are using their camera to reach out to people. I think it's a fantastic trend and I think there's no coincidence that two people who agreed to have their photos taken would offer advice like, “Come together,” and, “Love each other.”I also really enjoy giving myself assignments but admit that they often don't push my boundaries. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  2. Micki

    I'm running across more and more photographers these days that are using their camera to reach out to people. I think it's a fantastic trend and I think there's no coincidence that two people who agreed to have their photos taken would offer advice like, “Come together,” and, “Love each other.”
    I also really enjoy giving myself assignments but admit that they often don't push my boundaries. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  3. gavingough

    Sorry Buddy :(When I say that something is “Brandonesque” I just mean that it's been shot with style and flair and invariably that it's clearly been taken by someone who takes care to establish rapport with their subject. Nobody does that better in my opinion. It's also the opinion of students at the Bangkok Photo School who we directed to your portfolio last week when we wanted To show them an example of a photographer who demonstrates great empathy and respect for their subjects.It's really meant as a compliment. It's not so much about defining your work by a photographic style as it is about saying that this is a shot that could only be taken by somebody with your generous and patient approach. Il find a different way of saying it 😉

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  4. gavingough

    Sorry Buddy 🙁

    When I say that something is “Brandonesque” I just mean that it's been shot with style and flair and invariably that it's clearly been taken by someone who takes care to establish rapport with their subject. Nobody does that better in my opinion.

    It's also the opinion of students at the Bangkok Photo School who we directed to your portfolio last week when we wanted To show them an example of a photographer who demonstrates great empathy and respect for their subjects.

    It's really meant as a compliment. It's not so much about defining your work by a photographic style as it is about saying that this is a shot that could only be taken by somebody with your generous and patient approach.

    Il find a different way of saying it 😉

    Reply
  5. Matt Brandon

    Gavin — after reading your comments above I feel humbled and more than a little flattered. Please don't misunderstand my comments, I know you appreciate my work. You've told me that on many occasion. I guess, I write what I did more because of the past than what is happening today. I think at one time I was caught in a rut stylistically. And I heard people say things like that's very “Brandonesque.” And now, when I hear comments like that I think back to that time when I was struggling creatively. Again, thank you for these words they are very encouraging to hear.

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  6. heimana

    Yes, I loved this video! I also found “Dope, soap & hope” video really moving and inspirationnal – http://www.zarias.com/?p=440 – Can't wait to have my website on Zack's Photo Critique too!

    Street photography is quite a thing… what I found is I needed to be in the right mood to do it, it's not every day I can just approach strangers in the streets and develop an instant relation, while other days I'm just feel it!

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