Will I ever get over the awkwardness of asking people to take portraits, or for their help in starting a documentary project?
Probably not, which is why I try to do it often.
It’s kind of weird, to go up to someone, or send someone a note, and ask to make their portrait. How well do they know you? How well do they know your work? Do they know you at all?
I like to think it’s flattering to ask someone to take their portrait. It kind of says that I think the person is interesting enough to inquire. It also says that I want to spend a bit of time with the person – to get to know them better.
But I’m also a guy, and sometimes it feels like the bad guy stereotypes come through when I ask someone to join me in making photos.
For documentaries, it’s really weird, because here’s someone who does a cool thing but doesn’t know who I am, or what I’ve done. That was the case with my Albion Anagama documentary. I learned after the project was done that Ken and Anne had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, they were pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
But what if they weren’t?
That’s the risk of making something: you don’t know what the participant will think. You only hope that they’ll be pleased enough to continue a relationship and work with you again.
Getting over the hump of asking in the first place? I have no idea how to solve it. I’m going to keep trying, though, no matter how much discomfort it causes me.