Focus Shift; Why I Now Prefer The Ordinary To The Exotic
When I started out, I was strictly a travel photographer, and naturally I tended to see and depict people according to the demands of the market. I'd often be in a place that was new and different, and I'd be seeing people whose lifestyles and culture were different, even exotic, and it was my job to bring to the market images that reflected and revealed those differences. Most of the time it was the essence of the story. Think of travel pieces with titles like "Undiscovered Tibet" or "Unknown Shanghai."
Things are different now. The world's changed and my business with it. Now, as a photographer who operates and contributes to a multicultural stock agency called Blend Images (www.blendimages.com), I take photographs that represent people as the normal, everyday people they are; people who are representative of the culture to which I'm going to market my stock pictures. My work lately is the direct opposite of photographing people because they're exotic or strange or colorful or any number of adjectives that simply mean, here are people I don't see every day. Often the things that attracted the travel photographer--the exotic nature of a place and its people is the most obvious--are those that don't work for the stock shooter. The photographs here are examples of the work I'm doing for Blend Images. They're photographs designed to illustrate the everyday activities of culturally and ethnically diverse people.
The transition to these types of people pictures wasn't at all difficult for me. To start with, I never dealt in stereotypes. My pictures were never about a person's ethnic identity; they were about the person. Settings, clothing, background, items the person carried--they were all part of the context of the image. The ethnicity of the person wasn't the first thing you noticed, not if I was doing my job, and not if I was being true to myself. When you saw a woman standing in a doorway, you saw the color of the door playing off the color of a nearby chair or the scarf the woman wore. Everything was about context--the subtleties of the visual elements, the styling, the color palette, the details of dress and décor--and it still is.
I didn't have to change my approach to people either. I never tried to fit in or be someone I wasn't. I had enough sense and enough respect to learn a bit of the language or have a translator/guide, but other than that I was a travel photographer doing, and enjoying, my job.