(Published August 2008 in Murray Bolesta's "The Borderlands Photographer" in Tubac Villager.)
Your pesky suspicion that I spend more of my time in nature than with people might be right. My photography does, after all, focus mostly on the splendor of southern Arizona’s natural and rural heritage.
People can be the harder subject. They are also probably the most likely subject for professional photographers, since pictures of people and of the circumstances surrounding them put the bread on the table for most professionals.
Patience is a virtue when photographing a bird or butterfly, and it’s wise to show similar restraint with the people in your pictures. Your careful approach with a human subject before the picture is taken is a key to success. Having a deliberate approach versus a candid one depends on the situation. In either case, the best people photographers have a natural chemistry putting subjects at ease.
In the borderlands area, Hispanics and native-Americans make splendid human subjects; together they define this country's heritage and are naturally photogenic. Their images capture the essence of this place.
Horsemen and women also define the borderlands. An image of a galloping wild horse is timeless and evocative, and a photo of a skillful western rider atop a horse evokes a way of life fundamental to our local heritage.
People are the subject of most photography, in one way or other. Many aspiring professional photographers yearn to be journalists capturing dramatic images which will have a social impact.
A combat photographer captures the grimness of war, working in harm's way. A fashion photographer records gazelles strutting a runway wearing couture having a split-second shelf life. A portrait photographer interprets a person’s character using heightened levels of studio formality and preparation. A commercial photographer employs images of people to sell a product or notion.
The photographer must charm and relax his subject, capturing the person's essence without affectation: a genuine countenance with no posing. The subject will be within his element, enveloped in a setting enhancing a message. A series of photos will include semi-abstracts, such as a close-up photos focusing on hands, feet, face or eyes.
You’re at risk if people don’t want their picture taken. You’re safe with folks performing in some kind of public show since photos are expected unless explicitly forbidden.
Position yourself at the height of the subject; with kids, this often means you must crouch or kneel. The exception to this approach involves an intentional point using a relative angle.
Add a sense of scale by including an object next to a person. Watch that your photo doesn't become unintentionally abstracted due to lack of scale.
You, the borderlands photographer, while outdoors capturing images of our natural and rural heritage, should also exploit opportunities to add our cultural heritage to your album, in the form of the people here who represent living history.