When I initially approached my subjects for the ‘Humans of Columbia’ project, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I felt awkward and unsure talking to people I had never met before, and at first, I was kind of at a lost for what to say. Add to that my inexperience with cameras, and I was coming in somewhat nervous.
But luckily for me, my subjects were warm and welcoming. As we talked, I felt a sense of comfort set in, both with the conversations we ended up having and with my photo taking. The discussions went from being forcibly prompted by me to more natural flowing, authentic conversation, and I found my groove with the camera without being too invasive. I could tell that as time went on, my new friends were reacting more comfortably to the presence of the camera and myself. This change is reflected in my photos- the first few were more stiff and awkward, but as the afternoon progressed I was able to get more natural and relaxed shots of my interviewees.
I was really amazed by how quickly I started to feel familiar with my subjects. I think that the power of conversation is really indicative of human nature in moments like these- everyone can relate to each other through stories and shared experiences, we just have to dig a little to find them. I found myself feeling a connection with each person. Something about everything they had to say struck a chord with me, and made me recall some sort of similar occurrence I had felt at some time in my life. I think that what makes photography and journalism so compelling is the way we can find these stories and tell them, bringing people together and revealing our shared humanity in the process.
If I were to do it again, I’d go in totally cold to all three of my subjects, since had I known one of them beforehand. Although I don’t think this prevented me from having meaningful discussion with my new friends, I think it definitely flavored my impressions of them beforehand and impacted the way the conversations unfolded, at least at first. I’d also try and vary the types of people I talked to, instead of talking to three people who were all guys and all of the same age. Overall, however, I’m really pleased with the photos and stories I came away with. I feel more comfortable with my camera now, had some really interesting discussions, and had a lot of fun meeting new people.