Interact with People when Photographing a Cultural Event
When interacting with people at a cultural event, it, distinct, I mean some things are universal, but distinct from let's say an intimate event where you theoretically know the people that are there, unless you're crashing the party, you know, it's important to be observant of people, of how people are behaving and, you know, again, as I said earlier, what are the dos and don'ts in that particular situation, you know, how we should behave, you know that it's good to contact at least one, make contact with one person in that community or in that situation to explain who you are and what you're doing, because sometimes as photographers we can get permission without uttering a word, but there's still something more effective, more powerful, more respectful, if you do introduce yourself, and you do explain maybe who you are, what you're doing, why you're doing it. And often that will get you in that much more, that more deeply, you know? Make eye contact, unless that's culturally not appro...
priate. I can't remember what cultures it's not appropriate to make eye contact, but... (audience member speaks off mic) Oh, with a bear? No, sorry. And then... I'm trying to think of anecdotes. So a couple years ago I was in Thailand photographing, and I was told that, well, there was this, an elderly lady was going up the stairs and I went to help her and my fixer, my interpreter was like, "Don't ever touch the senior citizen from the, "like around their head, from the shoulders up," and I'm like total huggy kind of person, and I was like, I never would've known that. But thank goodness he told me, because I might have unwittingly, in the, an attempt to do something nice, I might have actually done something wrong. And again, it's one of the great things, you get to learn these things. I don't know about you, but I love learning that sort of stuff. Because it enriches me, it makes me understand, instead of judging it, like with every sort of cultural more, there's a reason for it, whether you agree with it or not, and quite often, it expands your mind; it expands your consciousness to understand people better, and I believe you then come to understand yourself better in your own culture. Of course there's been, I've worked a lot in the Muslim world. There's been many times where I've met a woman and I've gone to shake the hand, and I was left hanging, but then I had this beautiful, I was telling folks yesterday, I had this beautiful thing a couple weeks ago. I was in Dubai, and I was teaching a workshop, and one of the women in the workshop was an Emirati woman, a very lovely woman, a mom, and she was great photographer, very completely covered, and at the end of it, I was like, "Can I shake your hand?" She was like, "No." And then later that night at the going-away party, she came and gave me a hug! And I was like, "Wow, that's amazing." So, anyway, sometimes these things, you can break barriers too, or you know, so there's, again, it's a beautiful thing. Okay. There's another video coming up.
Chorus girl, Hollywood style, so kicking, and--
So not a lot of,
Not a lot of across-the-floor motion.
But like, within a, like a space, you're doing a lot of limb movement.
Yeah, exactly, lots of like kicking, and like, you know, arms, and like that.
So we'll be pretty, like, when we do a routine, we usually are pretty solid in one spot, unless a formation change is happening, but you'll see that it's gonna be pretty concentrated to one area.
And it's not partner dancing in this case, okay.
Do you know who Frankie Manning was?
Of course! (laughs)
No, 'cause I photographed him a few times. I've worked on a project about aging in America, and he was actually on the cover of my book, but I remember the first time I met him in Oakland, California, and it was like, this, I was sitting next to living history.
Like I was sitting next to a man who danced with Billie Holiday, and Count Basie, and it was like one of those moments where nobody knows who the hell he is unless you're in this world, but it was one of these moments that was just amazing, you know? And he was like already 90 years old, you know?
Yeah, he died at 94, like two weeks shy of his 95th. Yeah, you know, there's a lot of venues in Seattle where like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington and everyone played, I mean like Washington Mall's the biggest venue in Seattle. It's getting remodeled right now. So yeah, it's always pretty exciting to perform on those stages, where you're like, "Oh my God, Billie Holiday was on this at one point,"
I have to do a picture of you. Do you have like literally 60 seconds to give me,
Let me get them started.
Yeah, do your thing before you then, I,
Okay, here we go, first roulette. (jazz music plays)
So I, you know, trying to be more personal, I immediately thought of an anecdote where I could relate to her world, just so happened. You know, again, this is human interaction, that if I, I didn't want to be too far away from her, but then I also have to be careful, you know, in this case, the man-woman dynamic, I also don't want to be like overbearing, so these things are all really important, and they play out differently in every scenario. You know, and sometimes you get it wrong, but it's something that I think is critically important in any situation, is to read the people you're trying to photograph, or who you need to cooperate with you so that you can have permission to photograph, and figure out, again, where do you need to stand? Should I look you in the eye and really sort of pour my heart out, or do I need to be a little more formal because to be too squishy would be inappropriate? It's hard to know these things, but it's, it's really cool when you get it right. 'Cause it means you make that real connection with people. And you get your photograph. (light laughter)