More About Photographing Men (and Women)

Carol Squires came away from last week’s NAAFA panel with unanswered questions:

CS: Were most photographs in Women En Large and Familiar Men shot with only you and model(s) in the space?

LTE: Yes. All of my photographs are “environmental portraits”; the person always chooses the space in which they want to be photographed. I do this because a person’s space tells me (and you) a lot about the person. Also, seeing someone in their own space gives the picture a sense of personal history, instead of just being one moment in time. Obviously, the photographs that were taken at a public nude beach in San Francisco were a little different.

CS: You mentioned at the panel that you often (maybe always) had a interpreter present when photographing the Japanese women. How did this change your approach to photographing them/putting them at ease (if it did)?

LTE: About a third of the Japanese women I have photographed speak English. It has amazed me that I have been able to establish an equally good rapport with models even when using a translator. I don’t understand how this works; if you told me that it would be impossible, I would have agreed with you. But it does. Frequently, when I am photographing in Japan, there are other people there besides the translator, and that seems to make the models more comfortable. (I was the one who had to learn to get comfortable with having an audience.) In the small sample I’m familiar with, this feels like it might be a difference in the cultures. The Japanese portraits are clothed portraits, which does make a difference, and at the same time I don’t think most Americans would want to have people around while they were having clothed portraits shot.

CS: Also you did a lot of photographs in public spaces. Do you think this made it easier or more difficult to put the model at ease?

LTE: The few public spaces in the United States were complex to shoot in, because we were shooting nude photographs in public. I haven’t been asked this before (!); my first reaction is that there isn’t much difference. Japan has a “tradition” of “memory photographs” and that may be one reason. I’m going to think about this one more.

Your last question is so good, I’m going to save it to do a separate blog entry in the next few weeks.