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Around Town…project in portraiture

Red CoatRed Coat, ©2013 Leslie Noe Photography

Around Town is a fine art series of photographs that uses the representational artistic genre to illustrate the people who inhabit the city. The portraits are created as if one is passing through an ordinary day—going to work, school or shopping. This is better known as street photography.

Because we can only see what’s in front of us, it’s obvious that we are going to be looking at someone’s back side at some point in our day. We’re walking behind someone on the street or notice that we’re standing behind someone, looking at the same Christmas wreath or waiting for a meal from the same food cart. All of these were created in an urban environment, whether indoors or out.

The images are captured in frozen time. Even those subjects who were resting in a stable position tended to be in some sort of motion, with their hands or head. Using a higher speed allowed this. Another aspect that was important was using a shallow depth of field. This helped to isolate the subject from the surrounding environment which frequently included other people which I did not want to appear as important in the image. In two of the images there is an obvious collaboration between two people which I felt was important.

The clothing that the subjects of these portraits wear are their own. The clothing is a very strong theme throughout the project. The individuals each have a unique style or a color that supports the image—sometimes both. I tend to be a bit of a magpie in what I’m attracted to (the sparkly, colorful or contrasty bits), so I chose my subjects based on a visual interest that kept me looking. At times I was fascinated by the idea that everyone is masquerading in their clothing, knowing that they will be seen on the city streets. I tried to find the most unique of masquerades, whether that be in color, shape or line.

Because I was capturing images outdoors for the most part, I worked on overcast days without rain or snow. The overcast clouds acted to enhance the color and reduce the shadows or contrast that could be distracting. It also meant that I didn’t need to accommodate a neutral density filter.

In general, I was horribly self-concious when I began this project. With much practice I began to touch on my younger self who would create street photography as naturally as breathing. That was a very welcome outcome of this project. And I was amazed at the kindness of strangers—their generosity and encouragment helped me move forward…

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