How to make a picture of someone

Vic isn’t into the selfie crazy, but when he does take one, it’s amazing!

There is always an odd feeling at bus stops in small towns. They are sparse. In Wine County, California, public transportation isn’t widely used. I’ve been in empty buses before.

When there are people they are interesting, there’s just not many of them.

Several months back I was on bus waiting to depart home at the transit mall here in Santa Rosa California. (which makes for three places with the word “mall” in the name, which is too many for such a small town). From the window, I saw someone sitting down on a bench. I could tell he had a camera by the strap ‘round his neck. On impulse, I got off the bus and saw that he was taking pictures.

He was an older gentleman, in his seventies probably. His hands were trembling and shaking as he tried to take pictures — yet — he was doing it. I hit me: I should stop complaining and follow my passion for photography or really any passion. The excuses are always the same, it won’t look good, I’d rather watch a Netflix show.

Sonoma Coast courtesy of Vic’s Flicker

I said “Hello!” and we got to talking ; he even took my photo, though it took a few tries and he was apologetic. I got it : He was an artist going against everything to make his art, and he was taking pictures on film.

His name is Victor Stewart, he is a retired musician and life long photographer. He wandered off saying his wife was waiting for him with lunch. That’s why he took my picture actually, to have evidence of his why he was late.

Portrait of Andrés Pimentel taken during the interview courtesy of Vic’s Flicker

After he left, I felt good. I was walking back to the bus when I realized that he would be a really interesting subject to interview. I caught up to him and promised to call later.

About a week later I called and we met to go over what we’d talk about, we were both a bit nervous.

A few days after I went to his house and made a video about him.

During our conversation he said I was the first young person, outside of his family “ that has spoken to me in, I’ll bet you, ten years.”

This struck me.

Ageism really affects this country. We reflected on other cultures, like in Japan and the Lakota; they respect their elders. Here in the U.S we try and hide our elders, shipping people off to the edge of the country or to homes that will do the interacting for us.

His condition stopped him from working as a musician and has been chipping away at the list of things he likes to do. “Of the things I’m really passionate about, photography is kind of the last one on the list”, he told me. He doesn’t have a back up plan for photography.

We covered quite a few subjects: the generation gap, iphoneography, art and culture. You can hear the full conversation on my podcast here. However, in this article I wanted to focus on his recommendations for young photographers: how to make a picture.

Vic made an excellent point: “You can learn everything you need to know from the owners’ manual.” He also noted that autofocus and auto-exposure made things even easier.

And yeah, a photographer will scoff at the beginner that shoots automatic, but what makes the photo is, “What you look at when you press the button,” he said.

The camera doesn’t matter, not like the light or composition. I saw Vic’s collection: Sony, Leica, Nikon, Minolta, Roliflex. Take it from Vic, it makes no difference.

“Your picture should talk more about who they are, then what they’re wearing or what they look like.”

He told me that people generally like “pictures of people they know or pictures of people they don’t know,” point being that, “portraits is the name of the game.” It requires preparation. “It’s a really intimate process,” he said. You should really know that person, he continued. “Your picture should talk more about who they are, then what they’re wearing or what they look like.”

That’s how you make a picture.

So if you have always been meaning to or just want to try, go make photos!

Crab Pots courtesy of Vic’s Flicker

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