— Ansel Adams
This project intially began as a way to connect with strangers that I encountered while travelling. It was all about collecting 101 portraits. I soon realized that faces are inseperable from their surroundings. I decided to expand the focus of this blog to include the spaces in which people interact. When we meet someone for the first time and we get an impression of who they are, we also record their surroundings- they play a large role in the atmosphere surrounding the person. With this new expanded focus, this blog emphasizes individuals within urban space. Sometimes this focus is reflected in classic portraits, other times a space appears that showcases an environment to situate urban dwellers. Can we imagine putting together a face into an unrelated & new environment?
More than that, I try to understand how we evaluate situations. How do we construct a feeling of atmosphere for what we see? Is it about the colours, the layout of the space or really just about the individuals that populate it? The idea is to bring forth associations with different atmospheric places, to awaken that intiuitive part of us that sees a place and immediately understands what it’s about. At the same time, we begin to imagine the individuals and interactions that can inhabit it.
The photos reflect my journeys through various cities across the globe. The camera serves as a fixation point and window at the same time. It places me firmly into the new environment while allowing me to view the situation selectively. My surroundings change, but the perspective remains to be chosen by me, the photographer.
I initially started the 100 new faces project with one question in mind: how close can I get to 100 strangers simply by taking their portrait? In the meantime, the project has evolved to include faces as well as places to give to tap into a broader field of observation. The focus on individuals still remains though, and the below explains the idea behind the initial project.
I have always felt a strong desire to connect with people. Initially, I believed that this connection could come about through conversation, through finding out more about the person by gathering more information. I still believe that this forms an important part of understanding. However, in the past couple of years, I learned there is more to connection. In German, there’s a saying that is loosely translated as “the tone makes the music”. So while instruments and lyrics are important in creating a song, it’s the tone that determines the feeling.
Soon I realized that the feeling could not be captured through words, but only through an instrument or device that, in itself, is capable of responding to feeling. Trying to understand a person by focusing on the words they say is like trying to understand a song by reading the lyrics- it will always fail to recognize the full range of messages that are actually being expressed.
The reason that I am drawn to portrait photography is because the camera is the instrument that communicates between emotions rather than intellect. When I respond to a moment of truth by clicking the shutter of my camera, I respond with my emotive part. The part that hears the tone and not just the lyrics.
I believe that one cannot think about a good portrait and take it at the same time. Sure, there is some amount of set-up involved in any portrait- the person is asked to sit in particular spot, some people may even adjust the lights in the studio to achieve a specific effect. But at the end of the day, what makes a portrait is the relationship between the photographer and the person photographed. I have experienced that as soon as I think “there it is!”, the moment has already passed. As such, the actual act of taking a portrait is as far from an intellectual process as one can get. It is purely intuitive.