Storytelling Faces

 

In Search of Nirvana: This sadhu had just lit his chillum. I quickly composed and waited for him to breathe out. For the next 15 seconds, I hoped he wouldn’t look at me and lose concentration on his clay pipe. But in the end, this turned out to be one of my most favourite images. Photograph/Anirban Brahma

In Search of Nirvana: This sadhu had just lit his chillum. I quickly composed and waited for him to breathe out. For the next 15 seconds, I hoped he wouldn’t look at me and lose concentration on his clay pipe. But in the end, this turned out to be one of my most favourite images. Photograph/Anirban Brahma

Anirban Brahma shoots close-ups of random, wrinkled strangers in a crowd.

My Assignment

  • Description: A series of close-up portraits that focuses on features, textures and lines of the face.
  • Duration: One day of shooting at Babughat area, Kolkata. One day of post-processing with coffee and light music.
  • Notes: Not all portraits need to have a smile. So I set out with a view to capture the serious emotions instead. Some of my favourite portraits have no hint of a smile in them, and they’re highly emotional.

Photographing faces is quite a favourite for me. Every face tells a different story, which I love to capture at the right moment. I’m always looking for faces with a lot of character and untold stories. I won’t pick up my camera until I find one.

My Perspective
For this series, I chose wrinkled faces because of the wonderful textures, lines and hints of mystery. I like to fill my frame when shooting faces. Some of the best shots I’ve taken of people have been where I’ve tightly framed people’s faces. For this, it takes either getting in nice and close to the person or using a good zoom lens instead. I hope that once you look and study these photographs of these people, each of their personal life’s stories will unfold readily before you.

The Process
I always approach my subjects with confidence. It’s best to greet them with a smile and maintain eye contact. Personally, I prefer shooting either early morning or late afternoon, when the sunlight is just about perfect for my shots. For clicking faces in Kolkata, the best places are the ghats and busy markets. These places are crowded at peak hours of the day, so you’ll definitely find interesting subjects to photograph.

Whenever I shoot, my mind is always multi-tasking. It keeps searching for an interesting face. When I find one, I accordingly consider the available light, compose and then click with correct settings. Two imporatnt things to consider while shooting portraits are lighting and the camera’s metering system. Since I have to use natural light, I prefer to look at the direction of the light and how it is going to affect my subject. Accordingly, I set the metering system and exposure very quickly. And voila – I have a shot!

My Equipment: While on this assignment, I used a Nikon 105mm along with my Nikon D200. I also carried my barely-used Nikon 18-70mm and 50mm f/1.4 in my camera bag. Other than my gear, there are two essentials that I always carry – a big plastic bag and a 500mm bottle. These can be handy at any time and in any situation.

Tips to Get You Started

  • Travel light and wear casual clothes to avoid attention: You might have to walk around a lot to scan people’s faces around you. People might be curious and question what you’re doing in the process. To avoid this, it’s best to blend into the crowd, by wearing casual clothes and carrying minimal gear.
  • Shoot early in the morning or late afternoon: These are the best times to shoot, as the sun is at the right position and gives a nice, warm, golden glow to your frame or subject.
  • Avoid using a flash as much as you can: Although it can be used intelligently in some situations, it’s best not use a flash too much while taking portraits.
  • Be confident, be relaxed, be natural: Before you start clicking, take a deep breath. If you pursue what you want and never give up, you are guaranteed to get some wonderful frames.
  • Ask for permission before taking photographs: All it takes is a little smile and politeness. A lot of it is to do with your self-confidence and the body language you display. If you look sneaky, people won’t take too kindly to it. If permission is not given or the other person is not comfortable with your actions, always stop and politely move on.

To see more of Anirban’s work, visit www.anirbanbrahma.com

Tags: Composition, crowd, india, On Assignment, portrait, sadhu