I’m already famous

I’m already famous

Pic of the week by Andrew Sweigart

One topic that seems to divide the photography community is whether the posed street portrait is street photography or not. I say it is. I consider it a sub-genre of street. In my book, a posed street portrait is where you ask someone for permission to photograph them. That’s it. I don’t ask them to move to a spot for better light or better composition. I don’t ask them to smile or not to smile. Truthfully, I don’t do a lot of posed street portraits. When I do, it’s spur of the moment and usually a result of interaction between me and the subject-to-be. An exchange of small talk. Someone asking me for a cigarette. A transaction.

I take advantage of these meetings when I see character in faces that I may have missed before the interaction. I love capturing detail in faces that tell a story. And sometimes, I just use these exchanges to practice or to get me jump started on the occasional slow start while on a street hunt. More than once, I’ve attempted to get my mojo working by asking for a photograph.

This particular portrait was the result of a transaction. July of this year… Mount Royal neighborhood in Baltimore. Blazing hot. I believe the thermometer was north of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat index over 100. Drenched and exhausted, I had just finished the street hunt I was on and was making my way back to the car when I crossed paths with this gentleman. He was selling bottled water out of a rolling plastic cooler. I bought two bottles and began greedily drinking one on the spot, making small talk with the fellow about the weather and the local sports teams. Then, as I cooled down, the photographer in me woke out of my overheated daze. I realized that not only was this guy friendly and very cool, but he had a great face. I pulled the Ricoh GR back out and asked him if I could take his picture.

“What, are you going to make me famous?” he asked, laughing. I also started laughing as I framed him up. “Who knows, man,” I said. “Maybe!”

“Go ahead, man” he said. “But I’m already famous.” I snapped as a bead of sweat ran down his nose. I said thanks and asked his name. He just said, “got to get to work,” grabbed his cooler and walked off.

"I am already famous" by Andrew Sweigart


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  1. As a fledgling street photographer, I find this a fascinating topic/question: The journalist in me says ask, the wild spirit says don’t … thanks for your insights and the opportunity to meet the man who probably is now famous!

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