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Finding the Picture with Brooks Jensen

Finding Invisibility

The classic portrait (as well as the ubiquitous snapshot) have the people in the picture looking back at the camera with a big grin. Cheese. Click. Ugh. That may be a great formula for a family memento, but I find they rarely work for me in a so-called fine art project. Instead, I prefer that the photographer (whether it be me or anyone else) be invisible. I want the fly-on-the-wall experience, as though I am catching the subject in an unobserved moment as if I wasn't there.

Word had spread throughout the volcano village that there were photographers afoot, so when we saw this gentleman sitting outside his home in the shade of the walkway, he naturally smiled for a posed photo.

After I snapped the quick one above, I walked on a few steps, turned and captured the image below. The unobserved moment. That is what I generally want in an environmental portrait. There are photographers (e.g., Paul Strand, Richard Avedon, etc.) who have the talent and experience to get someone staring into the camera lens to act naturally, but I'm not one of them. Instead, I rely on invisibility as my strategy. And, that invisibility is best achieved, I've discovered, by making the throw-away snapshot and moving on — so the subjects forget about me. The moment their attention is diverted, that's when my opportunity presents itself. If I plan things just right, I can get 3/4 light, or, as in this example, 1/4 light — great for portraits.

Tech data:

Panasonic G2 using a Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom at 23mm. ISO 800. f/7.1 at 1/25th sec.