Stranger #7 Revisited

Posted on August 9th, by Danny Santos II in Personal Project, Stranger Revisited. 70 comments

Stranger #7 - Sophy .. by Danny Santos II

I’ve always wanted to dive into portraiture, and my previous Portraits of Strangers project served as my personal transition from candid street shooting to portraiture. Looking back at project, I later decided to create a new series of photo shoots by revisiting some of the strangers I photographed. Thanks to my facebook page, I was able to contact some of them.

This was Sophy when I photographed her for my Strangers project a year and a half ago. She was the first girl the I approached and I can still remember my hands shaking as I took this photo. Instantly, she was a crowd favorite, being one of my photos in Flickr with the most comments and favorites, and stands as my most viewed photo to date.

Stranger #7 by Danny Santos II

When I sent her a message in Facebook asking if she would be interested in doing a photo shoot with me, much to my delight, she responded “Definitely interested.”

We scheduled the shoot on a Saturday afternoon at the Singapore Botanical Gardens. It was a large place with different degrees of greens, light, and shade. This gave me lots of options to play around with regards to composition. Prior to the shoot, my girlfriend and I scouted the area and pinpointed specific areas to photograph Sophy. I always prefer to come prepared rather than just randomly walking around hoping to find a good spot.

On the day of the shoot, I learned 3 interesting things about her:

1) She spoke with a thick English accent, something I didn’t expect. I didn’t notice this when I took her portrait a year and a half ago since that encounter didn’t even take a minute. Ever since, I couldn’t really figure out what her ethnicity was. I thought she was sort of Asian, but when I first showed her photo to my brother, he said she seemed Caucasian. I finally asked her about it and learned that her mom’s Japanese and her dad’s English… and Japanese is her first language.

2) In one of the shoot locations, I was asking her to relax and just slouch as much as she can – as if she’s just had a very tiring day. I noticed that she was having a little trouble doing this, which I found curious. Later she told me that she grew up training in dance. Consequently, her mom always told her to sit up straight… so slouching never came naturally for her.

3) She’s been in a few photo shoots before, mostly to help out friends for their portfolio. She did mention that she wasn’t used to just staying natural in front of the camera, without actually doing so much poses. I said I wasn’t a big fan of the usual model poses. Besides, she looked beautiful even without much effort or poses.

We wrapped up after 2 hours. I felt really good about this shoot, and was able to come up with a few keepers that I’m really happy with. It was a good confidence booster for me, and now I’m looking forward to having more photo shoots like this with other strangers in my previous portraits project. In the process, I also hope to discover more ways to create different and interesting environmental portraits.

I’ve always considered Sophy’s stranger portrait as one of my best keeper shots, one which I will always be proud of capturing. In my mind, Stranger #7 to me is what the Afghan Girl is to Steve McCurry. Rarely do I encounter comments on my portraits that say “She’s probably the most beautiful girl in the world.” She got quite a few. And I’m inclined to agree.

Stranger #7 - Sophy, by Danny Santos II
Stranger #7 - Sophy, by Danny Santos II
Stranger #7 - Sophy, by Danny Santos II

Here are the 8×12 prints I promised Sophy in exchange of the photo shoot.

The prints for Stranger #7

70 thoughts on “Stranger #7 Revisited

  1. What a great job you’ve done here Danny, truly beautiful shots! Well done! Great idea to contact your prior street portrait subjects for a more in depth session. Hope to see more. :)

  2. I wish I’ll ever be able to shoot someone as naturally beautiful as this girl. One in six billion.

    I also believe that someone of your skill is needed to do her beauty justice though, don’t get me wrong.

  3. She is gorgeous but I love your other photographs too and thanks for sharing your thoughts about shooting strangers – I still feel very self conscious when trying to shoot people I don’t know well.

  4. These photos are stunning, you’ve done a brilliant job. I’m so glad you chose to photograph Sophy more indepth, the original photo you took of her has to be my very favourite in the series. Can’t wait to see more follow ups to the Strangers series!

  5. Hey Danny, I’ve been following your work on flickr, your pics of Sophi are fantastic….. great light and DoF…. thanks for the sharing and inspiring, haven’t tried stranger photos yet, someday….


  6. Wow, this is really amazing. I love the story behind it, and your photography is excellent, which only hightens her natural beauty. I want to be photographed by talented photographers at random… and then actually get to SEE those photographs. Ha ha!

    I love photography, and your work is gorgeous.

  7. Wow, I can see why you get so few portraits on the streets. You must wait and wait and wait until you see someone like this. In the initial portrait, she struck me as a lovely looking young woman (who for a while was the background on my tablet PC). In the photo shoot however, she looks so amazing, the first word that comes to mind is ‘intense’. It’s a combination of how she looks, and your shots. She’s alarmingly photogenic, and you’re a good photographer, that’s a powerful mix.

    My jaw’s literally agape, she’s an amazing looking young woman, and your photographs capture her very well, the fact that you took the first portrait not knowing who she was, then had a chance to shoot her as someone who isn’t a stranger had to have impacted how you shot her, and it’s done so in a very positive way. The shots are great. The portrait is definitely a shot to be proud of for life, as are the shots that came out of the shoot. It’s definitely inspiring.

    Thanks for posting things like this, it definitely makes me want to keep doing what I do.

  8. Thanks for sharing not just the photographs, but the experience.
    My favorites are the black and white portrait with the plant curtain, and the one with the big smile. (Incidentally, they’re the two you published on Flickr.)

  9. After reading this article and seeing those stunning photos, it feels like, I wanna get my camera, go out.. then shoot! Thanks for sharing Danny! :D

  10. It’s lovely to see an artist receiving so much support.

    There’s a lesson here for everyone here who enjoys photography and wants to express themselves.

    In Singapore there tends to be a very narrow focus on what I call the Camera Club sensibility. Sunsets, city views, cheesy poses.

    Often aspiring photographers get trapped in a limited view of what a constitutes a valid subject when there’s an abundance of beautiful subjects all around us (and I don’t mean just beautiful women).
    I’ve been commercial photographer for 20 years, the last 7 based in Singapore and it frustrates me that clients won’t embrace work like this.

    I was working on a personal project documenting an Indian barbershop in Siglap. Everyone kept asking me what was I doing there? What was there to photograph? Everything!

    I hope artists like Danny will help Singaporeans to widen their horizons and start to see the beauty in each other.

  11. Great share!

    I’ve always been apprehensive about asking for photos from people on the street, much less doing a shoot with them. I must admit that there have been many times where I wish I could do a photoshoot with some people but haven’t figured out how to ask them. This is definitely a great way to work with them. They give you a couple minutes of their time, you give them a photo in return and then there is a certain trust that has been established. I feel like without that initial trust established, your request for a photoshoot would have been declined.

    Time to print me up some business cards! Haha.

  12. Pingback: Stranger #77 Revisited | Danny Santos II - Street Photographer in Singapore

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  14. just discovered your site via twitter. some nice work here.

    the close-ups are of course stunning. but be careful for example with a shot like the one with the bench – made her body look odd with the direct angle and pose :)

  15. Now that you know her personally, I hope you had her sign a release form for the original photograph. If this is your “Afgan Girl”, you’ll need the rights to this photograph. In fact, I am one who would buy a print of this and put it on my wall. So please. For your own sake. Get the release form.


  16. Your portraits gave me goosebumps!
    More than how a model should look pretty, your photography translated what your subject meant, beautifully elaborated by the surrounding and pureness of light.
    Raw, unpretentious and sleek.

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