Portraits of Strangers
When I’m out on the streets, I often encounter faces that make me look twice; faces that stand out in the crowd without trying; faces that are out of the ordinary. They range from the exquisitely beautiful to the strangely wonderful. I started to approach these strangers for permission to take a photo of them. Some said no, but most said yes. After taking their portrait, I’d say ‘thank you’ and walk on along. I didn’t ask for their names, or where they came from, or what they do, because I wanted the viewers to see them how I saw them: as beautiful strangers.
Read more about the project here.
I saw her sitting on the stairs outside of a mall, talking with her friend. It seemed like a lively discussion. She was the first girl I’ve approached for this project. When I asked “Is it ok if I take your picture?” she comfortably said “Sure.” I was pleasantly surprised, but was still very nervous. As I took this photograph, I was actually struggling.. thinking: “Steadyyy… man, I hope she doesn’t notice my camera shaking.”
A year and a half later, I got to connect with her through Facebook. I asked if she’d be willing to do a photoshoot with me. She said yes again. Click here to see this stranger revisited.
I saw her from afar, walking briskly, standing out of the crowd with her short blonde hair and tall stature. I knew I had to take her portrait. My heart was pounding… I took a deep breath then approached her with a smile… “Is it ok if I take your picture?” She smiled back and said “Of course.”
She was walking with her boyfriend. When I approached them, they seemed startled, but as I explained what I was trying to do, they said ‘yes’. But I could still feel them being unsure about the whole thing. Looking at this portrait, I’m reminded of the quote: “A girl without freckles is like a night without stars.”
He was sitting outside the mall, wearing dark sunglasses. When I approached him, he immediately shushed me… he was busy listening to something. I apologized and walked away. Later, I noticed that he was then relaxed, so approached him for the second time. He remembered me and apologized for shushing me, I said it was ok. When I asked if I could take his picture, he was pretty cool with it. I also asked him to take his sunglasses off… he looked good with the glasses, but I wanted to be consistent with this project and always show the eyes. You can still notice the sunglass marks on the bridge of his nose.
It was one of those days where I was walking around for about 3 hours and couldn’t find a good face to photograph. It was starting to get frustrating. The sun had already gone, and I couldn’t accept that I don’t have even a single good shot for the day… so I decided to hang around ION Orchard just for a little while longer. And then I saw her just standing on the sidewalk, looking up at the big screen beside the mall. She seemed to be waiting for someone. She stood out primarily because she was so tall… when I took a closer look, I knew I had to take her picture. When I approached and asked “Is it ok if I take you picture?” she seemed startled just a little bit, but was very gracious and said “Ok.”
I got only one portrait that day… but it was worth it.
I saw her walking in the middle of the crowd as she was lighting up the street with her radiant beauty. I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t at least ask if I could take her picture. I did… and she nodded a yes.
He’s a street busker who plays mean percussions in the streets. I was walking behind him as I saw him give alms to a fellow busker. A busker giving alms to a fellow busker… that’s something you don’t see everyday. I caught up to him and asked if I could take his picture. He said yes.
After an hour of walking around a Saturday afternoon, I saw a slight sunlight partially shining through the overcast sky. I knew this was just perfect soft light for portraits, so I camped out on a spot in Orchard Road that was free of trees and shade. After a few minutes of waiting, I saw her walking briskly, listening to music in her ipod, completely standing out of the crowd with her unique beauty. I stopped her and asked if I could take her photo. I could sense her hesitation so I explained what I was doing and handed her my call card. She finally said ‘yes.’ After a few clicks, I thanked her and she went on her way.
He was sitting on the bench at the side of the road, waiting for someone. When I asked if I could take his picture, he seemed humbled and hesitant, but eventually nodded. As I pointed my camera to him, I told him not so smile. He sat up straight and gave me this cryptic look. He smiled right after the shot.
I spotted her from afar, sitting on the stairs talking with a friend. Her eyes stood out to me. When I approached her, she was hesitant but her friend convinced her to say ‘yes’. As I was taking her picture, she kept smiling even though I told her not to. After a few moments, she was able to hold her smile and give me this beautifully natural look.
She was with her friend, walking in the street with the grace and carefree aura of a model. When I approached her, they were very cool about it. As she posed for the camera, I knew immediately she was comfortable in front of the lens.
I saw her walking alone in Orchard. I approached her, and when I was about to ask her if I could take her picture, I literally lost my breathe, as if I literally swallowed my words. I stood there for a moment like a fool. As I tried to regain my composure, she was just standing there with a faint smile. Finally, I was able to ask her for a photo and she said ‘yes’.
She was sitting alone with very fashionable outfit, listening to music through her headphones. When I approached her if I could take her picture, she asked “whyyy?” with a very high pitched but very cute voice. When I explained about the project, she said yes. I’m glad she did.
Don’t be fooled by his intimidating look. As soon as I took this photo, he was clowning about, smiling as his wife was watching from the side, laughing.
I think he’s one of those biker guys I often see walking around in Orchard road, with leather jackets, motorcycle boots, dark shirts, and a bandana.
When I approached this girl, she suddenly turned to her male friend speaking in a foreign language which sounded Slavic, probably Russian. Her friend seemed to be translating what I just said and convinced her to pose for me. Despite the language barrier, it’s a wonder how she still managed to give me exactly the look that I was hoping for.
I always prefer my subjects to not smile. I wanted to capture their face in the most natural state, making the portrait more interesting. However, once in a while, a subject manages to sneak up a slight smile… despite me telling them not to. I still appreciate this because at least I know that this was a sincere smile, which to me still makes for an honest portrait :)
He plays the didgeridoo on the side of the street, along with some background trance music he plays from his Ipod classic U2 edition – I noticed the big red click wheel immediately. I waited until he rested from his performance.
Here’s a video montage of all the portraits I’ve taken for this project: