All right, catch you later
The portraits take an average of 30 seconds to make. I find a spot where the light is just right and the background is not too distracting. Then I wait.
It’s hard to say where’s a good spot. Brixton is always busy but during rush-hour no one has time or wants to be bothered. Many people either listen to music or are in a conversation and it’s difficult to get their attention. I tend to avoid couples.
It’s a split-second decision to make up my mind if I find a person passing-by interesting. I’m still trying to figure out for myself what it is that makes me approach someone. I’m not sure I can really say. Sometimes I wait too long and the moment has passed.
Of the people I do ask if they would be happy to have their picture taken, about half of them say no, ignore me or show me the finger. On bad days it’s closer to ninety percent. It’s always an amazing feeling when someone says yes. I know it's a big ask.
I briefly explain what I do. I say that I’m shooting for a project about people in Brixton. But many don’t seem to want to know. I rarely take more than
three shots. I say thank you and move on. I’m more than happy to leave my email address and offer to send photos, but hardly anyone gets in touch.
I don’t direct people in any way and let them decide what to do. If they smile at the camera, I might ask them for an extra frame with a more serious expression. I usually know straight away if a picture works, but sometimes the gems only reveal themselves later on.
I like the straightforwardness of the approach. Shooting with only a 50mm lens, trying to get it right in just a few seconds.
It’s nerve-racking. Asking strangers to photograph them there and then doesn’t come natural to me and it doesn’t seem to get much easier over time. I have had a few close shaves with people clearly on drugs or getting the wrong idea. But it’s very rewarding when it all comes together.