Should We Pimp Our Street Portraits?

If you become a regular reader of this blog will know that I’m not a great fan of posed street portraits, the sort of picture you get when you say: “Wow, you’ve got such a great face! Do you mind if I take your photo?”

Yes, I take them sometimes when I can’t resist it, but I always think I’m wasting my time.

At the back of my mind is the feeling that maybe one day I’ll think of a use for this or that portrait of a grinning man, woman, or person in transition. Maybe I could build a collection? Men with green hair? Women with blue hair?

But alas, it just isn’t my style. I don’t want to go in that direction. I’ve given up arranging my photos into collections because there seem to be too many people doing it.

Given the right subject, perhaps there’s an alternative way. Perhaps I could take a single image, then slice and dice it various ways to make it more interesting. Let’s give that a try.

One day a friend and I exchanged pleasantries on the street with a man who was wearing a terrific, skull-patterned tee-shirt. He knew he looked good and because he’d cast an eye on my camera he seemed open to having his picture taken. Did I mention his beard? Well, you could scarcely miss it. The tee-shirt, the beard, and his fine set of pearly white teeth were likely to make a good photo, so I took a couple of quick shots.

At the height of summer in a cloudless sky the sun can be quite intense in England. For this reason I don’t really like the resulting photo, although the “model” looks fine. I wondered what would happen if I cropped it heavily, effectively deleting the man’s companion — who didn’t seem inclined to move out of the way — while leaving just the subject’s smile, beard and tee-shirt.

I like this version a lot better. But I think I can go a step further.

Why not process the images (there were two of them) to emphasise the effect of sun rather than attempt to hide it? Then, why not select certain parts of the image and crop/save accordingly? Finally, why not put the pieces back together again in a row, separated by thin dividers?

I would argue that the end result is visually more compelling than any standard street portrait, taken under similar conditions. (Please see the image at the top of this post).

What do you think? Is this a proper extension of street photography, or a wrong turning on the road to nowhere?

Personally I’m not worried either way. Today we have wonderful tools for manipulating images and it’s fun to take a vacation from purely kosher street photography once in a while. I don’t like messing with photos I think are fully achieved, but when they don’t come into this top category I’m willing to experiment.

“Hey! You’ve got such a great face! Do you mind if I snap you and chop you up in post-production?”

Please don’t tell anyone I’m doing this.

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