Don’t Talk to Strangers.

    “Don’t talk to strangers” is very good advice if you are a child. If however, you are a street photographer, you may want to ignore that warning. Today, for the very first time, I chose to ignore what my parents drummed into me as a kid and am I ever so glad I did.

    After the Saturday ritual of the family shopping, I was itching to get out and start shooting with my recently acquired Nikon 85mm 1.8G lens and where better to give it a go than in one of my favourite German towns of Celle. I had given the 85mm it’s first run out the Saturday before in Nienburg but I wasn’t on top of my game that day and I didn’t really get many keepers worth showing on Flickr or worth writing about on here.

    So after the shopping was unpacked and with the car engine still warm, it was off to Celle for me on my own for a couple of hours. The weather was great, cold but sunny and although I was too late for the weekend fruit & veg market which finished at 13:00hrs, there were still lots of shoppers & sightseers around to keep me going.

    Not long into my shoot I was walking along the pavement scanning left and right looking for my next possible shot and low and behold I spotted a guy pushing his mountain bike along the pavement across the road. I had to look twice when I first noticed him…..his whole head and face were heavily tattooed and I definitely wanted a photograph of him.

    We were, at that time, parallel with each other so I just raised my camera and took a few shots on continuous mode. As I mentioned earlier the 85mm is new to me and I’m still trying to get to grips with the focal range / the new closer distance I am getting in comparison to the 50mm, 30mm & 20mm lenses that I am so used to using now-a-days. Needless to say the shot was way off as you can see in the image below.



    After I had a quick ‘chimp’ at the shot I wasn’t happy at all. So a change of tactics were required and I noticed at the end of his pavement the large electrical store ended on a corner. That was it….my ambush position. I opened up the pace and when I was a good distance ahead of him I crossed the road, rounded the corner and got my camera at the ready to snap him coming round. Well I don’t have to tell you that this didn’t work either when you see what the outcome was in the next image.



    As he passed me by, I started to head off to another part of the town feeling very downhearted due to the fact that I never managed to capture the guy and his amazing body ink. I must have taken about 3 or 4 steps and then I thought to myself, “NO! you really want this shot, now go and get it!” So I did. As I turned around I saw the guy was locking his mountain bike to a railing and without any hesitation I asked him if I could take a picture of him.

    Now for those of you who don’t know, most (but not all) of the German people who have seen me taking their photographs certainly make their feelings known to me and those feelings are not very comfortable or friendly. Even the look on their faces don’t need words to explain what they are thinking. So you can imagine how surprised and excited I was when he replied in a very soft and friendly voice, ‘Ja, natürlich’ which is German for ‘Yes, of course.’ I could not believe it. As soon as he agreed to have his picture taken he struck up the pose in the following shot and waited for me to get my composition and take the shot.



    He then turned slightly to face the camera head on while I turned my camera to the landscape orientation position and took another shot.


    While I was taking the shots I was thinking about my settings and hoping they were good enough for this 15 second photo session. Everything just went by so fast I didn’t take the time to check or change any settings and before I knew it, I had thanked him and started to walk away. Almost immediately I turned around and extended him my hand. We shook hands, I thanked him once again, wished him a nice weekend and then we went our separate ways.

    I was just so really, really happy that I managed to pluck up the courage to ask a total stranger their permission to photograph them and also the fact that he was so forthcoming and friendly made it even more of an enjoyable experience that I won’t forget in a hurry.

    It’s just a pity that in all the excitement and joy I forgot to ask him his name or even show him the images I took. How ignorant of me…..not intentionally of course but just something I must remember for the next time I photograph a stranger.

    There is probably no chance that the friendly tattooed guy from Celle will ever read this post but I’d like to thank him again anyway for helping me break the ice in a part of street photography that I never thought I would venture into….so “dankeschön”.

    The b&w version of the last image can be seen here in my Flickr photostream.











    1. Just Ard | | Reply

      Well, Well, Well, you actually got to speak to someone you took some shots of. Rather than them shouting at you!

      They are cracking portraits and the guy is so straight faced which makes him look so sinister. You had the settings right there mate, and the right lens on.

      So, that is No1 of your 100 strangers. Now you need to ask the next person you shoot their name, and also print out some cards to give them.

      I must be honest it was a great read and you cast off your demons.

      • Mister G.C. | | Reply

        Hell yeah!!…..what a feeling! I’m still on cloud nine.

        If I see him again (how could I miss him?) I will ask him his name and give him a card so he can see the end results.
        It just goes to show you that we should not judge a book by it’s cover when it comes to people.

        Those couple of minutes have just opened another street photography avenue for me to venture down, not to mention the confidence boost too.

        Thanks Wayne….always appreciated mate.

    2. Esther | | Reply

      Waow, Grant, such a wonderful article ! As I said on flickr, “I read this story and I can understand how happy you are with this “first time”.
      I’m not sure I would have been able to ask this guy to take a picture of him. It is scaring before you ask, and then, seeing his nice behaviour with you, it was such a good idea.

      Very well done, Grant. It’s also smart that you give us the whole session, with the first pictures.
      I love the 2 portraits, but my favorite is the first one, when he looks at you sightly on the left. For me, his eyes say “I know I am “special” but “don’t judge a book by its cover”. I really like this portrait, and I hope he will see it one day.
      The 85 mm has a new supporter !
      Well, now, you just have to finish the serie. 99 shots ? easy !!
      Bravo, Grant

      • Mister G.C. | | Reply

        Thank you Esther so much for your comments.

        I know he may look scary to some people but as I said, I just couldn’t leave without getting a shot or two of him. I know that each and every person is different, some more than others….but who are we to judge if someone is ‘different’. He like anyone else has his own style if everyone in the World would respect each others preferences it would be a more peaceful place to live.

        He has filled me with so much confidence, I’m really looking forward to see if I still have the courage to ask someone else on my next shoot.

        Once again, thanks Esther.

    3. Tina | | Reply

      Good for you, Grant! You definitely have more guts than I do. His tattoos are definitely impressive. If you hadn’t stopped to talk to him you would have missed some excellent shots. I love the first shot because he’s looking off into the distance. It was certainly nice of him to agree to pose for you.

      • Mister G.C. | | Reply

        Thanks Tina,

        from a distance it looked as if his face was just randomly covered with ‘homemade’ tattoos. When up close they certainly are impressive. It was only when I got home and viewed him on the PC that I noticed all the little details like the eye on his neck and his piercings.
        I wonder what ‘art’ he has on the rest of his body. The way he posed for me suggested to me that I wasn’t the first person to ask him for his picture. Good sport that’s what I say.

        Thanks again Tina.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *