The Story Behind the Portrait #6

I Wish I Could Time Travel Back to this Shoot


If I could time travel, I would go back to this moment.

In art school, I photographed a lot of strangers on the street (in fact I still do). I met this man in downtown San Francisco and he was agreeable to having his portrait taken.

We started talking and I asked him the age old question- "What do you do?" His response, "Actually, I just got out of jail." I was completely caught off guard. I think I said something along the lines of, "Oh okay, great! Now just stand here and let me photograph you."

I was naive at the time and didn't recognize the opening he had provided me. Internally, I was thinking that I should leave the presence of this person because he was probably dangerous. Now looking back, I wish I had asked him deeper questions- why had he gone to jail, how long he was there, what he planned to do now that he was out, what he most missed while locked up, etc.

I missed an opportunity for more with this portrait. I was new to approaching strangers to pose for me and hadn't yet learned the power of conversation. Conversation is so important- not just for the sake of the portrait, but also for learning something new about someone else. If I could definitely go back to this one, I would.

Have you ever felt like you've missed an opportunity to get to know someone better? Let me know, I'd love to hear!