Friday, January 22, 2010

Shooting Strangers by Bill Tracy

I received an email a couple of days ago from Bill Tracy, a California photographer who read my recent post, "Photographing People in Public Places." I receive email regularly asking me if I ask for permission from the people I shoot, and if so, “how do I ask?”  It can be intimating for many at first, but Bill Tracy explains how he overcame his initial fears and went on to shoot strangers with confidence and a passion, never looking back! The following images and story by Bill Tracy.

"I just read a blog entry you did about shooting people in public places. That reminded me of one of my most important photo lessons."

Back in the early 1970s I was trying to learn to take pictures. I read books, was the editor of my college paper, etc. After a year or two I sat down and went through all the pictures I had taken, and I was startled by what I saw. There was not a single picture of a person. There were pictures where people were present, but not a single photo where the person was the subject. And I realized I was scared of taking pictures of people.

When I find something I'm afraid of I tend to go right at it, so I went on a tear. In parks, on streets, shopping malls, parking lots, wherever -- when I saw a person I started shooting them. Well it got me over my fear, but it also taught me something very interesting. If you're a young guy and you want to meet a woman in public, all you have to do is start shooting her. When she asks why, tell her you can't resist because she's so pretty! I ended up with more women that way!!!     

Anyway, I have never since been afraid to shoot people in public. And while I'm armed with the knowledge that I have a legal right to do it, I'm also armed with enough sense to back off if someone takes offense!

I also spent a lot of years in and around the trucking industry. I wrote and shot for several trucking magazines and spent 10 years in Washington with American Trucking Association. Now I've been put out to pasture by the California economy so I have some time to work on taking some pictures. And I'm looking forward to it!

In the first image a large sailing ship was docking in Philadelphia when Tracy saw this old guy who was lending a hand. "It's the kind of thing I can imagine was the highlight of his day. The way his hands hold the line have a lot to say."

In the second image Tracy says, "It was on one of those boat tours of San Francisco Bay. I was sitting next to this man from France and his daughter. Given the exchange rate in Oct. 2007 he had just bought that high-end Canon Pro DSLR for not much more than pocket change to him. The expression on his daughter's face is great, especially when you know that he has a new camera and wants to shoot non-stop." Tracy's title for this one would be, "Dad, please!" You can find Bill Tracy on JPG Magazine.