Taking Pictures of Strangers

Vincent Marino (photographed for 1883 magazine)

I’ve always been fascinated by people and people watching has been a favourite pastime of mine since I can remember.
On the other hand, I’m a tad socially awkward and I find quite hard to approach people who I don’t know.
Recently I’ve finally (partly) overcome my awkwardness in approaching strangers and I’ve started asking more and more people  on the street if I can take their picture.

In a way it all started with my final major project at uni (you can read about it here), when I decided that I wanted to take pictures of people who perform as living statues on the streets of Rome.
As a student, I would always use the “school project” excuse (even when I wasn’t taking pictures for an actual project) and normally people were quite understanding and willing to help me.

Sergio, one of the living statues who kindly welcomed me into his home for my project

After I graduated, I couldn’t pretend to be a student working a project anymore and I stopped taking pictures of strangers, unless I was traveling, as I felt more comfortable approaching people abroad while looking like a tourist (for example see this post about the people that I’ve photographed in NY).

Seller at the Udelnaya flea market in Saint Petersburg

Since I live close to Brick Lane, I’m used to go to the market and, after seeing tons of photographers taking pictures of the “stylish individuals” for online magazines and blogs, I’ve realised that people are used to be photographed in that area and that it could be a good starting point to overcome my “fear” of strangers.

I wasn’t ready to take pictures on the street yet, so I asked Oli, the owner of the lovely vintage emporium cafe and my first stranger model in ages, if I could take pictures of him at his workplace, he kindly agreed and we ended up with the picture below.

While I was covering the catwalks of graduate fashion week for 1883 magazine with my digital camera, I decided to bring my medium format film one to take portraits of strangers between a show and the other and I’ve learned that “fashion people” are well up for having their picture taken 🙂 (below there is an example, the whole series is on my website here)


Few days ago I finally summed enough courage to actually stop people on the street to take photographs and I’m pretty pleased with what I have achieved so far (especially considering that I’ve shot only a roll of film for now)

I’m obsessed with ginger people and I’d like to make a series of pictures of ginger strangers

Photographing strangers’s children is a delicate matter and I was well nervous when I approached this little girl’s dad to ask permission (also because he looked pretty badass with all the tattoos), but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was well up for it and a real nice guy (that will teach me to stop being paranoid and judgmental about people appearances)

I definitively want to take more pictures of strangers and I’m considering taking part of the project 100 strangers on flickr, lets see if I’ll have the constance to do so.

This post about my struggles with photographing strangers was inspired by the beautiful work of William Hacker.
Please do check his website out, especially the brilliant street portraits section and don’t forget to visit/follow his tumblr to be updated on  his new project about childhood “forever young” that is absolutely breath taking.

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9 thoughts on “Taking Pictures of Strangers

  1. Pingback: 100 Strangers Project « It's beautiful here, isn't it?

  2. Pingback: The Stranger Project « aparnanairphotography

    • No worries, I’m glad you like the idea. To be honest, I think that you could have taken the picture without asking, it’s not really a portrait of a stranger, it’s more of a landscape with a human figure, you can’t even see his face!

  3. Hi Claudia, I’m an italian girl too, as you I love photography and I’m here in London, do you have some suggestions about film development here in town?Moreover I’d like to know which camera and which color film you used for the medium format snaps 🙂 I love them!

    • Hi! Sure, have a look here, it’s the cheapest place in London 🙂 I use a variety of cameras and films, mostly my Zenza Bronica Sq-Ai and either Fuji 400H or Kodak Portra 400. Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you like my work x

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