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52 by 52 8:39am, 14 June 2012
Challenge #42: A portrait is to be given never taken… Use this as your guide and give a street portrait of a complete stranger
— Steve Pyke


"Steve Pyke readily admits that his life in photography has been propelled largely by his fascination with the face. Born in England and now based in New York, Pyke first won notice for his distinctive close-up portrait style in the 1980s, with editorial work for the music press and magazines such as Britain’s popular “style bible,” The Face. In the intervening decades, Pyke’s photographs have reached a wide audience through their publication in major magazines around the world and their exhibition in museums and commercial galleries."

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County Sligo, 1994


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London, 1996


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London Homeless, 1987


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County Clare, 1987


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"I have spent the past twenty-five years looking into the faces of the famous, the infamous, the well to do and the dispossessed. Signaling our emotions and suggesting our cultural background, our faces silently speak realms about our identities and how we present ourselves. It is the naked part that we present, a personal canvas that we exhibit to the world. Our faces anchor us to our histories, our stories, and the stories of our ancestors. As we absorb time and experiences, the way we live our lives is etched into the landscape of our faces. We create the face with which we live.

The relationship between a photographer and a sitter . . . that nondecisive moment: that encounter, that exchange, is often brief, but the image which we make of those moments can be the way a person is remembered beyond their own lifetime, remaining long after the voice has been forgotten. Each time I look through my camera and gaze into the face of my sitter, it’s like another planet to be explored. I have many questions, but the ones that intrigue me most are . . . What do you want me to see? . . . What does your face mean to you?"

View more of Steve's work >

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As well as being a good place to connect with other members and share your initial reactions, thoughts about how to 'solve it' and any links you think might help the group, this can also be a good place to include any old photos you have that fit the challenge. We're looking forward to hearing your thoughts this week.

— 52 by 52 team
bart1eby 6 years ago
Having recently rediscovered my love of portraiture this couldn't have come at a better time for me, the only question is whether to go for posed or candid - the brief seems to point towards the former but doesn't entirely rule out the latter...
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Julia M Cameron PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Julia M Cameron (admin) 6 years ago
Another good brief for bart1eby!

The question of posed or candid is an interesting one...each has it's own challenges.
I feel that Steve's reference to the"nondecisive moment" inclines me towards permission being granted by the "sitter". But a brief encounter could equally be candid....

I think the way to proceed depends on the confidence of the photographer. Don't suppose there are too many of us who would feel comfortable using the same approach as Bruce Gilden!

This portrait was not consensual, but he had seen me with my camera taking pictures of other "guests
Candid portrait from Jubilee Party 3
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Mark W Russell Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Mark W Russell (moderator) 6 years ago
The serendipity and synchronicity of this week's challenge setter is slightly spooky; as my son Jacob is just about to start doing some work for Steve Pyke.
I understand he shoots on film/medium format, using Rolliflex twin reflex cameras.
I am not getting bogged down, in the candid/permission issue, just going to aim to get a good photo in the street. There a few "local characters" I might approach to see if I can shoot them. If I get a shot half as good as Steve Pyke's I'll be happy.

Old shot:-
[Guy on the street.]
~ Meredith ~ 6 years ago
I'm also leaning towards permission rather than candid so this will be something of a challenge. Mostly I've done candids like this one.

Tome by ~ Meredith ~


I've only recently started approaching people and still get quite nervous about it. Only this morning I got a "no" in my local park so I'll have to shoulder that one and try and find the next yes.
bart1eby Posted 6 years ago. Edited by bart1eby (member) 6 years ago
It can be very hard to ask strangers to pose for you and harder still to get them to say yes. I generally carry a small portfolio of 6x4s to show people when I approach them which generally goes down well.

It also depends on who you ask - in my experience young people are generally more willing than old, people in small groups rather than on their own, people sitting rather than walking. As callous as it may sound the homeless and big issue sellers are normally pretty reliable though you'll probably need to pay.

It goes without saying, or should do and is certainly worth repeating, that being friendly and polite is more likely to get you a yes.

It's also worth thinking about your immediate environment so if they do say yes you know how to shoot them to take best advantage of the light and background without putting them through too much hassle. I try not to take more than 3 or 4 shots so as not to outstay my welcome and always offer to email through a copy of the finished picture.

Hope this helps!
~ Meredith ~ 6 years ago
That really does Ben. Thank you. The portfolio is a great idea. I'll have to work towards that. I think being small and female probably helps too. I've emailed copies to people too. Sometimes I even get a reply :)
bart1eby 6 years ago
Thanks Meredith. I think being small and female probably gives you an advantage, it worked for Diane Arbus after all! I'm quite large and male so don't have that on my side though I do have a vein of camp poshness my public school background allows me to tap into! Even so (or perhaps because of this!) I find it much harder to approach women than i do men...
Leripix Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Leripix (member) 6 years ago
Took courage in both hands today and went to the Winter Gardens in Sheffield where lots of people were sheltering from the rain. I asked the first friendly looking person if he was up for having his photo taken and he said "yes"!!! then it seemed that everyone else thought it would be a good way to pass a wet afternoon and started preening themselves, trouble is they were quite keen to smile but as I had said be as you would like the world to see you that might not be such a bad thing. ....work in progress
bart1eby 6 years ago
I don't really 'do' smiling so often have the same problem. There's a couple of ways I've found to get around it. Before shooting I generally offer a little bit of direction as to what i want them to do with their eyes. For my TEDx portraits I asked everyone to think of one idea they'd heard that day that was worth spreading and try and communicate it just with their eyes. I also warn people that it might take me a couple of shots for me just to get the light right so either they save their photo face until i'm ready, and i've already got the shot i want, or they get bored smiling and i get it that way. Conversation also works, talk to people while you shoot and they often forget to smile. For persistent smilers it's worth saying that though you really like what they're giving you the smiling makes their eyes smaller and as the eyes are more powerful than the mouth can we just try it a bit more neutral. Needless to say if you do want smiles the best way to get a really natural one is to ask someone not to smile!
Leripix Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Leripix (member) 6 years ago
Thanks Benjamin - some great advice that I'll definitely heed. I think I will have another try there - but be a lot more prepared.

One thing that I am wondering about, however, on re-reading the challenge, Steve Pike says "... give a Street portrait of a complete stranger", which suggests including some context. Hmm
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Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago
Just an observation...but all the portraits for this Challenge are very up close and personal. Is that the influence of Steve Pyke as Challenge setter do you think?
All have gone via the permissive portrait route too by the looks of things.
It was very different for me to try this approach, but very rewarding too.
bart1eby 6 years ago
Interesting observation, Julia. For me, as well as the usual Thomas Ruff inspiration, it was because I only had a very small section of white washed wall to work with and I needed to be close to focus the brickwork out!

#42 portrait in white (benjamin)
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Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago
Ben, thanks for explaining your approach. It is always interesting to find out the thoughts and influences behind the lens! Your portraits are very easily recognisable as "bart1eby" due to your distinctive post-production.

I'm looking forward to seeing what others make of "street portraiture" too!
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