Exercise 2.2 – Covert
Approach this exercise with care and a diligent awareness of health and safety both for yourself and others. Closely consider the work of the practitioners discussed above, then try to shoot a series of five portraits of subjects who are unaware of the fact they are being photographed. As you’ve seen, there are many ways in which you can go about this, but we can’t stress enough that the objective here is not to offend your subjects or deliberately invade anyone’s privacy. If you don’t have permission to shoot in a privately-owned space, then you should only attempt this work in a public space, where permission to shoot is not necessarily required.
This is a very interesting challenge, which some students will find incredibly difficult. Remember that the creative outcome of the practitioners discussed above has come about through a sustained approach, which is then heavily edited for presentation. You’ll need to shoot many images in order to be able to present five final images that work together as a set.
Think everything through carefully before attempting this exercise as the
responsibility for the outcome of the portraits rests entirely with you. If during the course of this exercise you are challenged in any way, be prepared to delete what you have shot. If you can see that you are annoying someone, or making them feel uncomfortable, stop shooting immediately. You’ll be required to operate with a degree of common sense here and not take unnecessary risks.
There are ways of completing this exercise without incurring risk, such as
shooting the work at a party you’ve been invited to, where all the guests have been invited for a particular celebration.
The reflection about your methodology (your approach to how you have
achieved the images in relation to why you chose what you have chosen), will be as important as the final five images, so be prepared to write about how you found the experience (around 500 words) and present your findings via your learning log or blog.
I enjoyed this exercise a lot. Having done some street photography before, I realised that most people pay you no attention, when you’re taking photos in the street, especially where I live in a seaside town.
I decided therefore, to use my Nikon D810 with a 70-200 mm zoom lens. Although this is a big piece of kit, most people just ignored me taking photos, even when directly pointing the lens towards them. I chose this because I was able to stay quite away back from the person I wanted to take a photo of, often with them completely oblivious to me taking the image. I also used a fairly shallow depth of field (f/4) in order to help me pick out the subject I wanted to highlight.
In Evans’ Subway Series, he was aiming to take ‘truly unposed portraits’ because the subjects were unaware, and although I found during this exercise that this was the case, it still remains that as the photographer, I did compose the image and placed the subject in the frame where I wanted them. Of course, I didn’t hide my camera and in fact did completely the opposite and made my camera very obvious.