A1: The Non-Familiar (submission to tutor)

[Note – this post was updated after tutor feedback. Only change was to allow images to be opened at large size in separate tab by clicking on them.]


This assignment was to make ‘five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you’. I chose to take photos of strangers on the street in Patpong Night Market, Bangkok, after asking their permission and finding out a little about them. A full explanation of the rationale for this choice is here. I was interested in discovering the different ‘types’ I might find in this area given its reputation as a market for locals and tourists and its infamous Go-Go Bars.

While the work of August Sander has influenced me (see post here), Emil Hoppé’s photographic style and his interest in the psychology of interactions with subjects as well as types is a greater influence (see post here). Hoppé’s work stems from an interest in individuals and showing something of their character and then what that might say about the type of person they are and what general type they belong to. I admire his flexible approach to composing portraits – as if he is surveying a landscape for the best point of view to express his idea of the subject. I’d also done some research on street photographers working with street portraits, but only came up with suggestions as to why they might not do this (see post here).

My approach to the subjects was like an interview with a camera; some rapport building, expressing a genuine interest in something about the individual, finding out a little about them (language permitting), and then asking for the photograph. I had only one near rejection from the street seller with the tattooed arm; this was over-come by asking to photograph his tattoo, rather than him. I showed the photos on the camera screen afterwards; the French traveller (not in final selects) requested a copy, which I emailed the next day.

The photos

The full set of 21 potential images are in a separate post here,  as well as information about equipment used. Here are my final 5 selects, based on my intention to show the different types in the night market, and a consistent portrait orientation. Below the last of the images, I explain a little about the people photographed.

Click on images to open as large files

Portrait #18
Portrait #18
Portrait #6
Portrait #6
Portrait #7
Portrait #7
Portrait #10
Portrait #5
Portrait #5

#18 – Street stall owner, selling CDs and small electricals. His brother made the tattoo. He did not want his photo taking, but agreed to have a photo of tattoo. Perhaps he did not value his own photogenicity but did value that of his tattoo.

#6 – Young Japanese tourist, wearing t-shirt celebrating old English rock band. He spoke no English, but his girlfriend did a little. They were on holiday and were great fans of the Rolling Stones. His raised hand is holding an umbrella, which I’d asked him to raise further for the shot.

#7 – ‘Pimp’ with menu card of potential sexual-options inside Go-go bar (shown in his hand). After politely declining his menu, I expressed admiration for his t-shirt design to get the photo. I think he agreed before having a chance to consider that being photographed was not in keeping with his type.

#10 – Dutch holiday maker with her mother, who appeared to be of Thai descent. A long conversation was needed about the purpose of the photo before permission was given. It helped that I am familiar enough with Amsterdam to strike up conversation about my favourite aspects of the city.

#5 – Young seller of street food. He spoke a little English, so I was able to ask about his food and listen as he explained and pointed. I offered to send him an email of the photo, but he had no email account.


Against the OCA assessment criteria, I conclude:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational – skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Made technically sound images while dealing with the challenge of photographing strangers. Within the restraints of the street environment, I was able to direct the subjects to achieve the compositions I wanted.

Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

Final selection is consistent with objective of showing different ‘types’ in a place. Clear presentation of output, with preparatory work explained in separate posts.

Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention,development of a personal voice.

Experimented with a ‘local’ location that was outside of my home country and in a potentially challenging environment. Beginning to develop my own practice of treating portraiture as an interview with a camera.

Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs).

Research for this assignment specifically is shown in separate posts in this blog section and linked above. Blog shows ongoing work and research on technical aspects of photography, photographers working with portraiture and gallery visits.

One thought on “A1: The Non-Familiar (submission to tutor)

  1. Hats off to you. Asking strangers if I make take their photographs always results in my heart being in my mouth and my pulse quickening, I can’t imagine doing it in an unfamiliar country with language barriers too and still remaining calm enough to make effective decisions about composition and settings. You obviously managed to do so!

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