Photographing people and the art of conversation
It's 6am and we are standing on the Malecon point overlooking El Morro fort on the other side of the entrance to Havana bay. Looking gorgeous in the early morning light. We are there with our photo workshop participants to capture the sunrise. Dawn is upon us quickly transitioning into sunrise. So you have to be ready otherwise the moment will speed by you. As we are setting up I strike up a conversation with fishermen that trying their luck in the early morning light. I ask them about how the fish are biting. Soon enough the grumbling starts on how everyone is making money but them. It seems that they are always being photographed. I tell them we are there to make art, but that falls on deaf ears. Its a conversation that leads down a rabbit hole. I do understand where they are coming from. Cuba's popularity is exploding with tourism money flowing in and the wealth is not evenly distributed. However giving money to them is not a simple solution. How much do you give, to whom? To all of them? I don't like to leave people feeling used. Luckily a solution presented itself. A lady passed by selling coffee and I offered to buy everyone coffee to wake up a bit. They took the offered coffee and the conversation moved on to other things like fishing, music, the changes in Cuba and the beautiful Cuban women. At the end it wasn't just about the money. Although that is certainly one solution, but a complicated one. It was showing them respect, listening to their gripes, finding common ground, and going out of your way to share. Whether you are creating a portrait or trying to get permission to photograph. Knowing how to approach, and talk to people is just as important as the photograph itself. It can make or break your photograph.