Portrait of a Soul
(This is a series of posts on Jan Phillips’ book, God is at Eye Level, Photography as a Healing Art. For an intro check out the first post here.)
Still reflecting on the importance of the connection or relationship in photography, the author takes it a step further in chapter five by discussing the body language that speaks our inner voice, conversing through the language of eyes and smiles. “My portraits grew out of this closeness and expressed the intimacy from which they emerged.”
For me, taking portraits of people that I don’t know is challenging, particularly street photography. I’m not the “in your face” type photographer. Don’t get me wrong, with a fabulous zoom lens I do use it occasionally for capturing people, but it lacks the connection for me, it lacks the soul connection.
A few days ago while exploring the East Village here in NYC, my eyes always constantly looking at locations and evaluating their potential for a portrait capture, I came across a street with some incredible murals. Sitting there in front of this work of art was a man just hanging out, minding his own business and voila – the PERFECT scenario for a portrait shot.
But as mentioned, it’s very difficult for me to just shove my camera in his face. So by using “the language of eyes and smiles” we exchanged pleasantries and ended up sitting together for a half hour or so while I learned that Ron is a street person and has lived all over the boroughs of New York City.
He was quite the talker and we chatted for a while about my passion for photography. He was so intrigued about digital photography and just couldn’t grasp the fact that you didn’t need film and a dark room to view the finished product. When preparing to leave, he was quick to invite me back…”Oh, I’m always in the hood, come back and see me…you’ll find me…”
As Phillips’ states, “I wanted to interact with them, and I wanted my images to reflect some connection, no matter how brief or limited. That connection was the healing part, the place where I learned time and again that it is not language or custom or creed that unites us, but the spirit within that’s common to us all.“
Well said, Ms. Phillips, well said.
Next week: Chapter Six – Speaking our Peace
Joining in for the first time? Catch up on the previous chapters!