Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't shoot the funny lady

The serious business of survival
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]

She clearly does not want her picture taken. As I approach her on the crowded sidewalk, she removes the plastic nose/moustache contraption from her face. She's one of countless street merchants selling cheap tchatchkes to whoever has the patience to negotiate for them. Despite the funny toys she's selling, her demeanor is anything but happy.

I back away and melt back into the crowd. She goes back to wearing the funny face, but she does not smile beneath it. Ever.

She's got a sharp eye. Every time I raise my camera to shoot her, she quickly pulls it off and ducks behind a post. I'm upsetting her, so I keep walking. After I count off a set number of paces, I preset the camera - focus, exposure, focal length - and turn around and capture this image before she realizes I'm still there.

I feel guilty for playing this photographic cat-and-mouse game with her. But at the same time, I wanted some way to illustrate the sadness of these people's lives. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one.

Your turn: Are some photos worth a little more tenacity? How so?

One more thing: She's not the only one who doesn't want her picture taken. Click here for an older, similarly-themed entry.


Jackie said...

I really like the juxtaposition of the children's toy and the irritated expression behind it. Portraits say a lot about both the photographer and subject. Sometimes I wonder, does this exploit the subject or giving voice to their experience? And as a photographer, I would wonder is the voice theirs or my own?

Thanks so much for visiting my blog. This is one of my very favorites (anna will tell you :)), so I was honored to hear from such a skilled photojournalist!

kenju said...

It's really sad, isn't it, Carmi, that she sells something that brings mirth and joy to most, but she cannot be a part of it.

Anonymous said...

She looks so angry. It is sad that so many people spend their days in misery. Life is supposed to have JOY in it.

Great shot...one that makes you contemplate!

Anonymous said...

I don know---Carmi--I have mixed feelings about taking someone's picture that they don't want taken.


Linda said...

My first experience with traveling out of country was on a cruise to 6 islands in 7 days. I was completely intrigued with the island of Dominica (not doh MIN ick ah, but but Dah mi NEE kah). And I was willing to pay the natives to let me take their picture. The school children were eager to get a dollar each for a photo, as was the lady living by the waterfall.

I often take pictures without people knowing...because I can. But often, people are much more willing to pose.

Lori said...

I'm mixed on this also. Her first - then continued - reaction was, "Don't." I put myself in the place of that woman, and obviously it was a very difficult situation for her. Selling a toy to bring humor without a smile yourself tells the story of someone's hurt and sorrow. Her actions said that she didn't want to be shot. Even without words, it was a request for respect.

D.O.M. Dan said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog today Carmi.

I think for someone like yourself who is sharing these beautiful images and stories with us readers who appreciate them - a little more tenacity is sometimes necessary. But never to the point where the subject of the photo is being harassed or exploited - not that I think you've done that here.

Rachel said...

Too bad she never smiles. Seems like she would sell more if she did?

Even though she didn't want her picture taken I think it was okay that you did so, and very smoothly it seems!! Your pictures are so interesting!

Chad Oneil Myers said...

Good job, Carmi. Sounds like a cat and mouse game indeed.

Yes, some photos are worth the tenacity it takes to finally capture them, because as we all know, an image can be priceless.

Chica, Cienna, and Cali said...

i sure agree that some images are worth a li'l more tenacity but I'm not sure if I will include a reluctant person in the list, Carmi. The image captures her sadness very explicitly.

jac said...

everything happens for a reason. everything. this photo tells a story and reveals the inner life of the beholder as much as the beholden. the image makes you think and can perhaps change your thinking or behaving.
i love your photos, as always and thanks for your recent visits to my blog. you really lifted my spirits when i needed it. :)

Anonymous said...

As always I have to be different. I can't help thinking, wouldn't it have been wonderful if she noticed you taking that final picture and 'smiled' at your tenacity? Perhaps thinking "this gentleman must really think I am interesting." Sometimes people who feel they lead a dull and uninteresting life just need a little help to realize how interesting they really are.

Bobkat said...

Your photo really highlights an aspect of the human condiiton - the struggle for survival.

If looks could kill huh? It really is a mask for her misery and such a great shot.

Michele sent me back again which is never a hardship and has allowed me to catch up on this post that I missed.

Jamie L said...

I hate to break it to you but I think you have been busted.She looks like she is very much aware you just took her picture.I wish you could have enriched the story by purchasing the novelty, however I can't say as I would have had the courage.