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Wednesday, 07 August 2013


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My mother absolutely detested being photographed. I talked her into allowing me to take two images on two different occasions. When she passed away a year and a half ago, we used the last taken image of her at the memorial service. Many were so taken with that picture, which they said really captured who she was, that I was flooded with requests for re-prints. I was honored that many of her close friends considered that image to be a reflection of her personality and life.

My daughters, both adults, enjoy the advantage of having dad cover their cellphone bill. I keep this condition in place as it affords me certain leverage: both despise, or at least pretend to despise, being photographed; the threat of cutting of cellphone service allows me free reign with the camera........In fact, the condition has given me a great photography project; I call it "The Hand." After years of frustration over getting "The Hand," I have discovered going with the flow and taking what I am given has resulted in a pretty entertaining photo collection.


Cheers Mike,

Sounds quite reasonable, may I ask you to have this conversation with my dog? She's camera-shy to the extreme, ironic since she's quite photogenic (if I do say so myself).

I shall nevertheless try your technique with my spouse, who's forever using her shield (forearm) whenever a camera is pointed her way. We'll see how that conversation goes. Luckily, the kid becomes a performance artist around a camera. I'm one for three.

I go about photographing my family just like I photograph everything else, no one even knows they're being photographed. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dear Mike,

I think that's a lovely idea, but my peripheral dyslexia first caught the title out of the corner of my eye as "A Club for Dealing with Uncooperative Subjects."

Which, I suppose, would work, if you like photographing people in repose.

pax / Ctein

I occasionally have the same problem with my kids, who like the pictures i get, but sometimes hate to be the subject. I do a similar bargain of just asking for a couple of minutes, but i request it as a photo for my dad who lives half the country away and always wants new pictures of the kids. When they won't pose for me, they'll often give a couple of shots for grandpa.

The missus does not like to be photographed either. I had to put a +10 series 5 close up lens on a bellows (f3.2) and show her the soft focus results to get her to cooperate. I also found out she didn't mind when she was wearing big sunglasses. She said they hide her baggy eyes. I've even reminded her that I had precious few good photographs of my first wife who died at age 31 and want to have photos of all the family now.

My approach is simply to respect the desires of someone who doesn't want to be photographed. Their right not to be photographed certainly overrides my desire to take a photograph, mo matter how much I care for them or how well intentioned I am.

I tend toward the opposite approach, myself. If folks won't grant me the occasional photo (with an eye-contact and a nod if it has to be conscious) then sooner or later they'll wake up and wonder why they don't have any photos of themselves and it'll be tough cheese for acting an eejit around the camera.

When my own father died suddenly of a stroke in 1982 at age 62; was thankful I had done
more than my own share of photography of him;
my own mother died in 2011 at age 94. Unlike my father who was camera shy Mum only needed reassurance my images of her would always be flattering. Thankfully had done a serious of informal iamges of her some four years prior, before her dementia appeared. These were used in her memorial booklet prepared by the local funeral service.
As for myself without a significant other and no siblings find great joy in photography others found unawares; and they often reciprocate. Somehow am unable to compare an image recorded on a digital chip as being equivalent to an image placed on
a strip of plastic coated with an emulsion.

Mobile telephones equipped with all and sundry attachements are not true photography devices IMO. Mind neither a tradtional camera nor an mobile telephone with a caamera
have yet to include an ice-cube maker in their list of optional applications.

I like to photograph friends and I do, typically as part of a social activity. I categorise people as follows:

1. Not photogenic
2. Photogenic but don't like to be photographed
3. Photogenic and don't mind / like being photographed.

Here's how I deal with each category:

1. Don't / avoid photographing them. It's a thankless task for myself and them.

2. Watch for a very photogenic and candid moment to take a photo. Only ever show the best photos. Over time these people realise that a) they are photogenic b) I'm not out to "get" them.

3. This group splits into two ... those who don't mind and those who even "ham it up" in front of the camera. Lots of opportunity for good photos. Also make sure the people in group 2 see the photos from group 3 ;-)

Lifting a camera to the eye seems to be akin to pointing a gun at some people so I don't lift the camera.

When I got my first Nikon Coolpix 900 long ago I discovered that the "twist body" allowed me to shoot as if it were a TLR. I'd sit or stand and appear to be fiddling with the camera as if I was adjusting it, sometimes "complaining" out loud about "What's wrong with this thing?" My little subterfuge has allowed me to get some nice photos of family members including one of my father with a big, relaxed smile. Dad passed away in 2004 and my shot-from-my-lap photo of him is now my mom's favorite picture.

The new generation of cameras with swivel screens could certainly be used in the same way. My Oly E-PL1 with it's swiveling add-on electronic viewfinder works almost as well as the old CoolPix capturing family just being themselves. My Nikon D600 is my regular camera but the Oly is my family events camera.

A very good idea, Mike. After reading Ken's piece I've been making sure to photographs friends and family, after almost avoiding the subject for years. There are a few that are reluctant subjects. I look at my mum and dad, who are 79 and 81, and know they are not going to be there forever.

Once you get into rights talk you have lost. Most people don't care if you take their picture, or they try to accommodate you. A few people, typically close relatives, the ones you most want to make a visual record of, try to control you by refusing consent to see if you'll comply. You can either refuse to stop photographing or wait until they're distracted. If you always rigidly respect their expressed wishes you will eventually regret it. I'm photographing them for my future benefit, not theirs, and my stolen candids are almost always better than their starchy poses. If a photo is good, no one will tell you after the fact that you shouldn't have made it.

Rick D, you make me laugh...my Mom's little Jack Russell terrier would refuse to look at you when you pointed a camera at her, she was quite suspicious of the whole deal, I never did get a decent picture of her. Those who know the breed know they're super intelligent, and can get a "snit" on for days if scolded. She was so smart, she was probably trying to tell me she wouldn't do it without a signed release and a decent pay-out!


> ...self-portraiture; it seems a little vain.

There is a semi-recent BBC documentary called Ego: The Strange and Wonderful World of Self Portraits which is well worth a look if you can.


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