While, in the tradition of photographing the streets, I naturally love recording human interactions and depict “stories” happening in front of my lens, lately I find myself more and more drawn towards specific individuals, on their faces, their transpiring emotions, something extremely intimate, unconscious, and visible for less than the fastest camera shutter speed.
Unrealistically, I would like to be able to isolate these fleeting fellow humans in front of a seamless background, in my studio, to remove any possible distraction and “zero-in” on their persona, their expression and nothing else.
No background, no environmental details: nothing, just them.
I am attracted to their personalities, their life stories, their current feelings, those miniscule yet enormously important personal details revealed by their facial expression, for a split second.
This is not realistic to pursue for several reasons: if I was able to invite them to my studio I would make my presence as a photographer obvious, hence I would not be able to capture those natural, powerful, unconscious facial expressions that unexpectedly catch my imagination, while walking amongst them.
Within a formal portraiture environment my only hope to make a relevant picture is to start some “relationship building work”, something I often do with the subjects of more conventional portrait sessions: the photographer and the subject get to know each other, perhaps acquire some level of trust in one other, until they eventually start working together, towards creating a significant photographic portrait.
But the kind of street portraiture I am practicing lately is a rather different (and technically difficult) affair, which requires a stealth approach and a good deal of experimentation with my capture strategies.
The portrait happens in a split second, something infinitely shorter than the time it takes to raise a pre-focused camera to your eye and press the shutter.
Often, I feel, there’s not even the time to actually see a “decisive moment” let alone to frame it and click the shutter. There is only time to perceive a moment and, mostly, accept the mysterious forces of the universe to do the rest.
I train myself to expect nothing from the resulting images, only what my mere perception, my shutter finger speed and, mainly, the highest degree of serendipitous abandon will kindly donate me.
I actually find it quite interesting and invigorating, after a lifetime spent “being in control”, creating images for different clients, always with specific stylistic requirements, conceptual briefs, deadlines, to be able to embrace my passion, photography, during my street wanderings, in this totally spontaneous, almost “not-in-charge” kind of way.
The results never cease to surprise me when, amongst a great number of failed frames, I discover a few interesting ones. Sometimes, reviewing the day’s work, I almost feel as if I was looking at images taken by someone else: perhaps “the other me”.
Meanwhile, the subjects of this kind of street portraits sometimes start feeling like close friends to me, almost as if I somehow became part of an unannounced moment of their life, and they have become part of mine, both of us unwilling and unknowing companions in a mysterious journey.
Giovanni Savino, New York 2013.
© Giovanni Savino Photography