Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Once you can make someone feel safe, the world is yours to photograph."... interview with EMON HASSAN.

Enjoy story behind this portrait by Emon Hassan, who is freelance portrait and concert photographer based in NYC.

1Q) Can you please tell us the story behind this portrait? How you took it and why you choose to shoot this person?
I'm currently shooting a New York-based mystery webseries, The Third, and Jessalyn is a guest actor in the Pilot episode. This portrait was shot in front of St. Peter's Church in downtown Manhattan, just blocks from the former Twin Towers site. I wanted to get a couple of promotional stills for the site with Jessalyn in character. The sequence shot here appears in Ep. 2 of The Third.

2Q) What photography gear you used here and why? What is usually in your photo bag?
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and have been shooting with it since March of 2009k. The ability to switch between stills and video is something I've always coveted and this camera lets me do that, and more.
My two main lenses are Canon 24-70 f/2.8L and a Canon 50 f/1.8, aka the nifty fifty. The portrait of Jessalyn as well as the whole episode was shot with the Canon 50 f/1.8 lens. In fact, the 50 is my lens of choice as it is unassuming when I'm doing street photography. 
My photo bag usually has the camera, both lenses, a Zoom H4n for audio, a Gorillapod, a screw mount if I want to have the H4n attached, extra batteries for camera and audio recorder, charger, and a handful of 8GB Lexar CF cards. Pretty simple. 

3Q) What do you love most about shooting portraits?
The thing I love most about portraits is that, when timed right, the essence of a character is captured in a single frame. Have you ever shot a portrait of a person and when someone else has looked at the picture said "Yes, that is so her/him!!"? It's a great feeling, isn't it!? People often confuse portraits with posed pictures. A portrait could be someone's silhouette while she is practicing dance moves. It could be the close-up of a doctor's face when he is examining his patient's heartbeat. It could be the absence of someone in a crowded room. But in the end, portraits are mainly what the photographer sees in the subject. You and I will have two different representations of the same person. And we'll both be correct. 

4Q) Do you consider yourself mostly as a “portrait” photographer?
I don't actually. I think limiting myself to simply shooting portraits would prevent me from learning from other areas in photography. A photographer should always try new things and allow him/herself to fail. I've shot rock concerts, events, some still life. Portraits, however, have a special place in my heart because it's about people. Every portrait tells a story. Or should. I'm a storyteller at heart and I try to tell them in single frames. It's hard work and some luck.

5Q) Do you work with available light or do you use additional lightning often?
I'd say 99% available light. I have a Speedlite 430EX II but rarely, if ever, use it. 

6Q) What/Who are your photography muses and influences?
Oh there are so many. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, James Nachtwey, Robert Frank, Todd Heisler, Larry Towell (whose exhibition at L.A.'s Getty blew me away). Am also inspired everyday by the brilliant work of photographers I see on magazines, blogs, sites, Flickr etc. 

7Q) Any tip for taking better portraits?
  • Gain trust of your subjects. Before you can show them that you're capable of taking good shots, they have to trust that you'll portray them fairly. 
  • Smile. It works wonders.
  • Everybody has a personal space. Respect that space. Use that space in your portraits. 
  • The eyes. If there ever was a great non-verbal storyteller. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. A hundred, thousand, or more shots later you'll get a sense of who you are as a photographer. You'll feel confident about yourself. And guess what, that confidence will shine like a beacon on your subjects. Your subjects will, in turn, feel safe in front of your lens. 

Once you can make someone feel safe, the world is yours to photograph.

Thank you, Emon!

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