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Tuesday, February 22, 2005


’Allo, stranger! Fancy a snap?

Visual Journalism I, assignment 2: Picturing the other.


This was, without question, the toughest photography assignment I’d ever been given. Not only did I have to do a portrait, which I’ve never liked to do, but the subject had to be a stranger. Not only that, it had to be a stranger that didn’t resemble me.

“Hi, you don’t know me, but I’d like to take your picture because you look different from me.”


Luckily, the first person I approached — a girl named Leatha in my urban planning class — graciously agreed to meet me on campus before our next class meeting. She proved to be a very patient and cooperative model, and darn photogenic to boot.

It was rainy and cold that day, so we headed for the library and sat down in facing chairs. I put the camera on a low tripod in front of me, attached a cable release for the shutter, and got the scene into focus. Holding the cable release, I was able to take the pictures I needed and still carry on some kind of a conversation without a big camera on my squinting face. Changing the framing was easy, because I could just look down into the viewfinder while we talked. This benefit of using a TLR never really occurred to me before, but it really helped the process.


Because I still don’t trust myself with a handheld light meter, I took some backup pictures with the Nikon. One of them came out so well, I had to include it in this series.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the way the assignment turned out. Over three rolls (48 exposures), I got three solid shots. More important than that, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable the next time I have to take a stranger’s picture.

At the root of my dislike of doing portraits is the way I feel about being photographed: I hate it. I feel quite uncomfortable on the business end of the lens, for the simple reason that I look goofy. Nice guy that I am, I hesitate to put anyone else in that position. In a transparent effort to make this assignment as painful to me as possible, my professor also demanded a self portrait.

So in the interest of fairness and completeness, here’s my dumb ass posing with my father’s Nikon and my mom’s Kodak Retina.

Daniel Esch