Harvey Stein is a photographer, educator, and curator based in New York City. He just released a new book: “Harlem Street Portraits“, documenting portraits in Harlem for over 22 years (from 1990 to 2012). I interview him about shooting and putting together the book– and what other tips/advice he has for street photographers who want to take more intimate portraits. You can also see my previous interview with him on his book “Coney Island.”
Last November I shot a campaign for Samsung’s NX20 camera using a video camera strapped to my head to record the footage of me shooting street portraits in Chicago with permission. It was a project that was intensive: I shot for 2 days straight from 5am-noon on little sleep.
The thing I loved most about the project is that although I certainly didn’t take photos that made it into my portfolio — it forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and interact with lots of people on the streets in a short period of time. The fact that the video was being played live in Amsterdam while I was shooting did give me healthy pressure which ended up being a great learning experience.
Here is another video of me shooting posed street portraits in the early morning in Chicago. Hope you guys enjoy, and you can see the other POV video I made here.
Recently on my Facebook fan page and my Twitter, I asked the community to send me their best inspirational street portraits. I cherry-picked these as the best from all the submissions I got. Congrats to everybody who made the final cut! Read more to see the rest of the great images.
Recently my friend and fellow artist Jacob Patterson asked me on Twitter what I thought the difference was between street portraits and street photography. It was a fascinating question, as there are many debates and inconsistencies on the web about the differences between the two. In this article I will outline my thoughts on the differences between street portraits and street photography. Not only that, but I encourage you to read on and chime in this debate as well.
Some may argue that posed portraits of people on the streets is not “street photography” per-se. However regardless of all these definitions, I still feel that there is merit in taking portraits of people you might encounter on the street who have fascinating stories to share. There have been many occasions in which I have randomly started talking to people and wanted to simply take their portrait as it interests me as a photographer. However one problem that many people have is that they feel “awkward” doing so. Therefore I will teach you guys some practical tips how to take street portraits without being awkward.
1. Use a preface
Asking to take somebody’s portrait is a bit uncommon in western culture, although not everybody is totally opposed to it. To break the ice in asking a person for their portrait, using a preface is always a great way to make the other person feel relaxed.
My favorite preface to use when asking random people on the street to take their portrait is “I know this might seem weird, but would you mind if I took a photo of you?” In saying “I know this might seem weird,” you are acknowledging to the other person that what you are doing is against “the norm”, but it reassures the other person that you have no malicious intent. When asked this, most people shrug their shoulders and say, “Sure I guess so–why not?” Granted that you will get some people who say “no,” but I would say I find much more people who say yes.
My full-series of Jacob Patterson, a Los Angeles based artist who specializes in graffiti, shoes, and street art. A truly amazing and inspirational artist and person. I look forward in collaborating with him more in the future.
I got in contact with Jacob, and he gave me a tour of the “ThinkTank” in Downtown Los Angeles, an art warehouse he is currently building up with fellow artists. We talked, chilled, grabbed a burrito (thanks Jacob!) and I told him that I would snap him a few photos before he left. This is the product of literally 5-10 minutes of shooting.
Check out his sites: