This coming week in photography class we have an assignment of “portraits.” Doesn’t have to be people.

I have a pretty easy time getting portraits of animals, and Tempest is certainly a willing (and diva-ish) participant, but I’ve been trying to push myself during this photography class. I am taking it to learn, to grow, and so it seems that if I stick with what I find comfortable, I am limiting what I might get from the class.

At the same time, I know that we tend to gravitate towards the subjects that we have the most affinity with, and therefore the most success with and talent for.

I obviously have mixed feelings, but now is a great time to experiment and branch out, and so that’s a challenge I’ve set for myself.

A friend suggested I go to a place where there are crowds and just start taking pictures. And, well, yeah. That’s the point, and I have a hard time explaining exactly why it is so difficult for me to do that! I’ll be there with my camera and I’ll feel like people know I’m taking their picture and feel violated by that invasion. Obviously this says more about how I feel than how others necessarily feel! So maybe I can get over it. Maybe not. I’ll try.

Today we had a photography field trip to the Smithsonian, to look at pictures rather than take them. There is an exhibit “Impressed by Light,” which is a collection of photographs that used paper negatives. The entire process of how these pictures were made is fascinating, and reading about the photographers who would lug around 500+ lbs of photography equipment really puts my own obsession into perspective!

After going through that exhibit and wandering through some other exhibits, I went back out to the mall determined to take some pictures of random people. I sort of succeeded. There was an ice skating rink, and since it was a nice sunny 50+ degree day, there were lots of people. I took a few pictures, and felt like I had no direction, no subject, was accomplishing nothing. I took pictures of people’s feet as they skated by and felt better about it. But that was slipping back into my old comfort zone!

So I wandered to the mall, which is just a long expanse of poorly kept up grass, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, and sat on a bench. I took a few pictures, but had the same problem as I’d had at the ice rink. I saw a man who appeared to be homeless and had better luck with him, though when I came back home to go through the pictures I was frustrated with how most of the pictures turned out. The angle wasn’t quite right, he was too centered, there was too much visual chatter in the background, nothing seemed quite right.

Progress, of a sort, I suppose.

I’m fascinated by the photographers who were really able to capture crowds and people and moments. Casasola and Cartier-Bresson come to mind. Cartier-Bresson is, after all, a huge influence on street photography. And from that wiki article, I found something that fascinates me, considering my conflicted feelings about this type of photography; specifically my attraction to it, and the shyness I feel in attempting it:

Shyness and street photography seem to be mutually exclusive. However, most successful street photographers have started as shy photographers.

two women photographing washington monument