Brick Lane, London.
When I asked to take her photo, at first she was a bit flustered and then reluctant, but then agreed to let me take a couple of frames. I dunno if you can tell in this frame, but it was raining. She sort of frowned when I finished and then asked to see the result. “It’s not bad,” she said casually. Then she thought about it and asked, “But is the background OK? Are there too many people?” I said it was fine. Then she asked, “What about my face? Should I make a better face?” I looked at the frame and was about to tell her that we could try again, at which point she waved her hand and said, “But I’m sure it’ll be fine…”
I actually like exchanges like these. When approaching to photograph people on the street, I aim to photograph them as naturally as possible (the only direction I almost ever give is by telling people to ‘relax’, and then immediately capture the very next thing they do). Only when photographing a person on the street who has a very clear idea of how they want to be photographed will we go through the motions of posing and/or staging. For non-editorial shoots this is in fact very rare. But what I liked about this exchange was how the young woman sort of internally worked her way to the acceptance that her natural state was in fact good enough, that staging or somehow creating a false environment would ultimately not be better than what had happened. Sure, we could’ve captured a better stance, a more empty background, a more polished face, but it would not have been this, the most natural moment in an otherwise unnatural circumstance. This speaks volumes to one’s inner-security, something that can be achieved simply by making the choice that who you are is quite good enough.