At a recent workshop in Downtown LA, I was shooting with one of the students (Luis) when we come across an interesting character with all these tattoos all over his body. He told us he just got out of jail (a few days ago), and was struggling on the streets. We gave him around 2 bucks, and asked him if it was okay if we took some shots. He had no problem with it– and to pose for the camera.
I asked him somewhere along the line what other tattoos he had, and he got excited and showed us all of his other tattoos all over his body.
Outlined in red is my favorite shot of the series:
I shot these all on the Ricoh GRD V, and used my Neopan 1600 preset on them in Lightroom 5 (download my free Lightroom 5 Film Presets). I tried working the scene from different angles, and different perspectives. Most of the photos were with a flash.
The reason why I like the photo I chose is his hazy, sullen look— but with a look of soul and emotion in it. I also like how you can see all of the tattoos on his body, and I love the black and white tones in the shot. The nice tones on his face is from a mix of natural light and the on-camera Ricoh flash.
I initially am quite nervous to photograph tough looking guys— but funny enough, they tend to be the ones who love being photographed the most. Especially when they have badass tattoos.
So a lesson I always remind myself: If there is a shot that I want to take (but am nervous) — I remind myself: “The worst they will say is no.” And if it is a rougher looking guy on the streets, I don’t mind donating him a few bucks for his time as well. I generally don’t do this too much, but it is the least I can do for the guy.
All of the shots:
To read more on contact sheets, I recommend reading: “How Studying Contact Sheets Can Make You a Better Street Photographer“, and “10 Things Street Photographers Can Learn From Magnum Contact Sheets“.