I am a recently retired high school math teacher who taught for a total of 45 plus years in 11 schools in four countries. My first eleven years in the classroom were spent in the inner-city schools of Baltimore, and over the years, I have easily taught about 6,000 young students with almost half being students of color.
In the course of my lifetime, I have lived about 18 years overseas. Wherever I was, my camera was always my constant companion. Whether traveling through Asia or Africa, I came to learn that a smile and a bow can go a long way in introducing yourself to “new” friends.
There are two types of photography that I enjoy. The first is pure Street Photography, where the photographer strives to remain invisible. The goal is to silently record a small glimpse of humanity. These images of our daily lives serve both as an artistic statement and as an historic artifact for future generations.
The other is the genre of Environmental Portraits. Here the photographer interacts with perfect strangers on the street, and within a few brief seconds strives to establish an atmosphere of trust. The goal is for the camera to capture a small glimpse into the spirit of this new acquaintance. Whether I was walking the streets of Bangkok, Cairo, or my hometown of Baltimore, I can honestly say I have had no more than a few people decline to interact.
In Environmental Portraits, a major concern is the background. Most of the time when and where you encounter the prospective subject, the surroundings may be extremely busy and distracting. The immediate task is to decide where you wish to take your portrait prior to even engaging the subject. However, wherever you first meet with the subject, proceed to take a series of photos. Do not worry about anything, since these are to be discarded!
The purpose here is simply to further establish trust with this new friend. After this initial burst of images, suggest moving to a nearby location with better lighting or backdrop. My first image on the page, “Young and Proud”, occurred in a second location. Initially the young girl was in a crowd at a city festival. After a few photos, I suggested we move about 20 feet with an open area behind her. The confusion of the festival was immediately behind me, yet she appears isolated with a diffused backdrop.
Many photographers prefer the beautiful scenery of a landscape. Others revel in the surreal world of the abstract, while some even prefer the company of animals. For me it is all about people, and the reason is twofold. The challenge and joy of meeting new people far surpasses the interaction one would have with a mountain or a bird. Secondly, these resulting images of honest and personal encounters hopefully serve in a modest way to somehow supplement the historic works of photographic icons such as Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” or Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”
Photography has recently become the universal art medium. More photographs were taken yesterday than in the entire 20th century. The ones of people for me rank supreme!
This collection of almost 30 images of People of Color come from America and other parts of the world. My greatest photographic joy is using my camera to record in some small way the daily lives of people that I do not really know.
The obvious question here is why present a collection of images of People of Color. The answer is obvious for anyone who surveys photos on the internet whether via Facebook or Instagram. Rarely does one see a portfolio related to this segment of America.
The photographer may be Black or White, yet the images presented are usually not of People of Color. Overcoming this void has been my focus as a street photographer for some time now. My camera provides me the joy of interacting with a wide variety of interesting people from all over our country and beyond.
My greatest hope is that you have enjoyed these photos. I know I enjoyed the experience of interacting with the people and recording a small slice of their lives.