About 10 years ago I set myself a project to photograph people I’d never met. It was a way to build up my confidence in talking to complete strangers and also to improve my own photography. Every now and then I find myself returning to this project as a way to experience situations in a new and innovative way.
On the weekend I went to Destination Star Trek at the NEC in Birmingham. Here were 10000 people all enjoying themselves but without actually meeting properly for a conversation… at least that’s how it started. Trekkies are quite sociable souls so it shouldn’t have been that hard to approach someone for a chat. How difficult can it be to go up to a random stranger and talk to them? Would you do it? Well it’s a lot easier when you have a camera to hide behind. I wanted to do more than say hello or ask for a photograph so instead I asked people in costume to pose in a totally unexpected way. Suddenly Klingons were swigging Pepsi, Ferengi were smoking, Vulcans were laughing, and I felt less awkward about approaching people for their picture and staying for a conversation after.
Breaking the norm when you ask for a photograph makes people smile and gets them talking. I might have to adopt something like this for my photography workshops. Perhaps the activity can be called Make a Stranger Laugh or something. Ask a stranger for their photograph and ask them to pose in an unexpected way to make them (and you) smile. This weekend has definitely given me food for thought with how people interact and how confidence can grow through conversation.
Live long and prosper.