A couple Saturdays ago I did something very unusual; I went to the local farmer’s market. You’re probably thinking that’s not unusual at all, people do it all the time. Normally you’d be correct but this is me we’re talking about. Let me break it down for you:
- The Farmer’s Market is from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday morning.
Do you notice the problem word here? “Morning”. Getting out of bed before noon on a Saturday might be in the top 10 on my list of things I don’t want to ever do again.
- It’s a market, which means buying and selling things.
I happen to fit perfectly into the stereotypical “broke college kid” category. Not only do I have no money with which to buy stuff, there’s almost nothing there I would be interested in buying. I usually shop for the sort of thing that has a power button and a microchip somewhere inside. Not so much for the whole corn and squash deal…
Weaving back and forth through a crowd of people on a Saturday morning definitely isn’t my idea of a good time.
Now that we’ve got that, you’re probably wondering why I even bothered going in the first place. It was all in the name of science! Ok, actually it was in the name of photography (specifically for an assignment) but you get the point.
People, Places, & Possibilities
That’s the name of what may prove to be my most dreaded assignment all semester. I’ve completed it now but the objective was to go out and photograph a complete stranger. I’m pretty introverted to start with so approaching a stranger in the first place was going to be difficult. But here’s the real kicker. We couldn’t just “point and click”. Some sort of lighting device had to be used (something like a reflector or pocket strobe). So take the anxiety already involved with photographing someone you’ve never met before and add to it the element of waving around a big shiny disc/bright flash-of-light emitting device that’s sure to grab the attention of everyone in the immediate vicinity. Are you beginning to see why I was so apprehensive of this assignment?
Initially it was scheduled for us to go on location during class time to photograph at a local car show called Cruise Night. Basically people show off their custom cars and it provides an ideal situation to approach someone, strike up a conversation, and then make a photograph. Car people are almost always willing to talk about their cars so it provides a good common ground to start at. That and there would be 20 classmates of mine all floating about doing the same thing so it wouldn’t seem like such an out-of-place thing. That fell through, which meant back to square one. Hence, I went to the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday. It guaranteed an ample supply of strangers and (hopefully) willing subjects showing off their wares.
The Friendly Potter
I spent some time just walking around the Market looking for potential subjects and hoping an opportunity would present itself. After a bit I decided to try approaching a guy selling pottery that I had spotted earlier. He seemed pretty friendly and as it turns out, he was. So this is Ryan, the potter (visit his website here).
We talked for a short while about his pottery; he’s been doing it for 3 years now and actually built his own pottery wheel using the motor from an old treadmill (and saved over $300 doing it!). Like me he’s not made of money and it was pretty cool to meet someone else who’s crafty and finds alternate ways of doing things when they can’t afford the “proper” way. Then I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. Afterwards we both laughed about it being kinda awkward. I thanked him repeatedly for helping out, bought a couple of his handmade pots, and went on my way.
The best way I can sum up the whole experience is to say it was delightfully terrifying. I understand why our instructor had us do it, and I’m glad I got a chance to meet someone new and make a photograph of them. Nonetheless, it was still pretty terrifying to do. Maybe it’s just me though. How do you normally handle approaching and photographing strangers? Have you got any good “war stories” or do you feel pretty comfortable with it?