I want to talk about unposed street portraits. I do not intend to start a debate, though this may indeed start one, it is just how I feel about the work I want to do.
When traveling to a “far away place”, whether literally far away, culturally different, or just to an event with dress-up costumes, there is a strong seductive pull to take posed portraits. You may ask your subject to move into the light, change to a different location, turn their head, or perform a particular gesture. These posed portraits can be striking and fun and I’ve seen many photographers fill their portfolios with these posed images of exotic faces in exotic places.
For me, however, posing has never been my thing. I’m not sure if it is because I am bad at posing and communicating with a subject or if I deep-down believe that the posed portrait is missing a more deeply authentic expression. So while in Mongolia I made myself a challenge – no posed portraits.
As we gathered around and photographed the beautiful and generous people of Mongolia, herders and families, many would freeze in a stern face as if they only new of slow film requiring long exposures. While the group began to photograph, I laid back and waited for the release in the tension, looking for the in-between moments when they let their guard down. I looked for the breaks in the stoney expressions, a caring glance toward a family member, or the far away stare into the vast country side.
Here are a few of the unposed portraits that I captured.