The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bressi once said: “The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt,” and this challenge is what I live for.
You can’t just go up to a stranger and ask to take a close up photo of their face and hope to capture genuine expression. No, instead there must be a relationship. The photograph is not just about capturing a moment, its about the moments before that made it possible.
These people have all been a part of my life while I was on my year of volunteering with Global Vision International. While I taught three, four and five-year-olds in Peru, I shared the daily joy of capturing their expressive faces as they learnt shapes and social etiquette.
In Thailand I walked with elephants and mahouts in the forests and captured the expressions of the villagers as I built a heartfelt relationship with them.
In India I worked with orphans, teaching them English and Maths, catching whenever I could that curious glow that stretched across their faces.
In the Seychelles I dived and occasionally helped at the local orphanage, seizing those soft smiles with a click of my camera.
In Kenya I lived in a village where the children were always intrigued and love sharing their smiles.
From Indian orphans to curious village elders in Thailand, taking a portrait photo captures, just for a second, their thoughts, the folds of their smile and the curiosity in their eyes. Some of the people I’ve known for years, some I forged a relationship in mere hours, but all hold a special place in my mind.
Hold a camera up and most people smile, but whether the smile is true lies in their eyes. Some people freeze, as if their breathe is caught in their throat. Some people turn away and giggle as if you’re tickling them.
For me, it is a real privilege to capture these moments where you are between a person’s skin and their shirt, because it is then that you learn a little bit about yourself.