Taking portraits of strangers is one of the most rewarding aspects of photography for me. The process can be intimidating but that's part of its attraction. Getting outside of my comfort zone is the best way to grow, as a person, and as a photographer.
During a recent trip to LA, I had a couple hours of downtime and decided to head down to the famed Venice Beach skatepark to take photos of skateboarders. When I arrived I found a full scale photo shoot was already taking place. As a result, 3/4 of the skate park was blocked off. Despite the limited access, a small group of skaters were making the most of what remained open.
Watching them work on tricks and sharing laughs took me back to the years I spent as a teenager riding BMX. As the afternoon sun began to set, I decided that rather than try to get action shots in the limited time and space available, I would shoot portraits of some of the people I met that afternoon.
After snapping a few portraits, the sun began its descent into the Pacific. With just a few minutes of sunlight remaining, I saw a silhouette in the distance surrounded by seagulls. I immediately made my way towards the scene where I saw a woman feeding the gulls from a plastic bag. After she ran out of treats, I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes as the sun finally set.
Thats the thing about a camera. It can be a tool to document the scenes that play out in front of us, when its done right it can capture something honest and memorable, but it can also be a tool for real, human connection. In the few hours that I was in Venice, I took a couple hundred photos, but what I'll remember from that day are the conversations and connections I made with a handful of strangers.