5 Feb 2008

Photographing people in the street - eye contact

This picture was taken in China – one of the few places in the world to which I have no desire to return. As you can see, the street performing sword swallower is the main subject. He has his eye glued on me and is trying to draw me into his act. Maybe he wanted me to try swallowing a sword. Whatever it was he failed. Simply because I kept my eye to the viewfinder and just kept on taking photographs. Eventually, he gave up on me and got on with trying to impress his audience by stuffing an assortment of swords and knives down his throat. I just carried on taking photographs.

One of the strengths of this photograph is a composition that gives a strong sense of depth – this is partially due to the use of a wide-angle lens, but mostly because of the differing scale of the figures from foreground to background.

Another forceful aspect of this photograph is the eye contact of the main subject, and, if you look to the left, the eye contact of the man who is watching for my reactions. Eye contact is a powerful device and can give the viewer of your photographs a feeling of involvement with the scene and the subject. It confirms that the subject is aware of the camera’s presence – in this case the subject is actually responding to the camera – there is a shared interaction.

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