Sunday, March 23, 2008


Hanging out with balikbayan friends and relatives from the States often spur fond memories to arise.

One of which was
during the warm weather months in New York when I'd buy a slice of pizza and a can of soda, and then head on over to the little park over at Herald Square. And in the midst of midtown Manhattan's hustle and bustle, I would find myself an empty bench where I could comfortably enjoy my food while people-watching.

Usually, I'd also conduct an inner dialog: curious about these peoples' lives -- their unique experiences; the people they have loved; the things they treasured, and the places where they've traveled. And just like a benevolent mystic, I would search their faces for some traces of the dreams they've tenaciously held on to, as well as for those they've reluctantly let go.

The peoples' facial features, peculiar mannerisms, modes of dress, and animated gestures would later become the images of the characters in the novels and short stories that I'd devour during the chilly winter evenings.

There were also the occasions, as relief from making sense out of personal conundrums, when I would simply go out people-watching. And although such activity does not necessarily inspire effective solutions, it certainly is a relaxing diversion.

Other than in Manhattan, I've done lots of people-watching in all the places I've visited.
As a New York Times article proclaimed, "People-watching in New York is what vista-gazing is to the Grand Canyon: You haven’t really been if you haven’t done it."

Interestingly, the same may be said here in Manila where I've been people-watching as of late.


posted by Señor Enrique at 9:07 PM


Blogger Android Eyes said...

Happy Easter Sr. E!!!
I too enjoy people watching, without judgements of course! Sometimes I'd sit and often wonder about their lives, etc. I'd wonder too what it'd be like to see what they see. Kinda like that movie Being John Malkovich, seein the world thru other peoples eyes.

also here's some 10 tips on ohotographing strangers, I'd like to share to everyone.

Shooting a stranger can be challenging, but if it weren't a challenge than anyone and everyone would be able to do it with flying colors! Be it an assignment, a random person you met off the street, a person you noticed on myspace or facebook, lets face it, no matter who they are, they are still new to you! I actually met all of these strangers from the avenue of the internet and thought I would share some words. Here are my ten tips on how to achieve an impacting, emotional and memorable portrait.

1. Don't be afraid to ask. As blunt as this may sound, grow some balls! Really, what is the worst someone could say to you? No! That's right, a measly no! You have to understand that some people really just don't like their picture taken, so respect it and move on. If they are hesitant then prove your worth. Show them some examples of your work, or fill them in on your creative ideas...pulling the student card always works too! If they say yes, than its your lucky day!

2. Offer Goodies. Nobody likes to work for free! Your models are doing such a huge favor for you so in turn you need to make it worth their while to take time out of their day to shoot! In my experience most people are honored and flattered that you want to take pictures of them. However, in any case no matter whom I am shooting I always offer TFP or TFCD meaning, Trade for Prints or Trade for CD. If you are a starving artist like me and your models want cash, just be honest and tell them you can barely afford to pay for the processing but are so passionate about the project. They usually give in!

3. Do your homework! Sometimes models, subjects or 'real people' don't even know where to begin. This is your job to use your creative mind! Find out what they do, where they hang out, what their hobbies are or what scene they are into. I tend to shoot the Indie scene. Reason? Because I love anything vintage, I love the lifestyle, the look, the wardrobe, the props, the demeanor. It all just reminds me of old family albums and inspires me to locate it in the "now", twenty-first century. The people I tend to photograph have somewhat of a sense of style; they have a plethora of fashionable outfits including accessories and neat-o props. Make sure to brainstorm before the shoot to get your mind going, one little object, color, location or piece of fabric might inspire you so write it all down!

4. Be inventive! We all have seen the same cliche image of someone in a cemetery or someone near a railroad track. You are in the big leagues now and need to step outside the box. Juxtapositions are what make images. Think: fat and skinny, night and day, hot and cold, tall and short, happy and sad...whatever contrast you can think of. I have found that shooting people in their own natural environment brings out the best in them. They are usually much more relaxed and willing to do more "out of the box" concepts. Take advantage of your model, location, props and wardrobe. Don't confine yourself to just one location or idea, have your subject move around and try different things. Change your vantage point or have them change their outfit. Also, don't get discouraged if a certain idea doesn't work. Move on and try something new.

5. Get a Model Release. And, I stress this, GET A MODEL RELEASE! The model release is one of the most important things you need to obtain from your model/subject. Once you have it your future options for that particular image is endless; stock photography, greeting card companies, editorial use, you name it. Make it as standard as brushing your teeth in the morning! Do not shoot until the release is signed because chasing someone down after the shoot is not easy nor fun. ASMP is a really great source to get free model releases.

6. Don't be nervous just be cool! Be honest with your model. It does not matter who they are or how famous they are, what matters is the limited time you have, so shake off the nerves or the "star struck" feeling and get to work! If you are nervous, it shows and is contagious. You can simply engage in a little conversation, ask questions and get to know them. You do not want your model to be nervous! The more real you are, the more your model with respect you and relate to you and in turn your images will be fabulous.

7. Avoid the cliche. Why is it that every time I shoot an inexperienced model they result in putting their hands on their hips? This is a mega no! Think back to tip #4, be inventive! You are the director so you are responsible for capturing the right moment. It is easy to detect images that are too forced or feel like both the photographer and the model tried way too hard, which results in an unsuccessful image. Make it simple and make it easy. The second you feel you are trying to hard to get something good from your model, take a break and shake it off. When you acknowledge you are forcing it, you learn and you grow. I tend to have people turn their heads away from me and when I say "go" they turn into the shot while I snap it. The reason I do this is because I try and stay away from the static and too forced pose. The end result is much more real and often unique because everyone is different and always brings a different feel to the image.

8. Let it be. What I mean by this is watch them and figure out their unique characteristics. Every person is unique and has something completely different to offer you. You want to capture their essence; you want to capture the mood and the ambiance. Need inspiration? Spice it up by having them jump, twirl , or scream! Do whatever you can to get their souls on film!

9. Change outfits! When I schedule a TFP (trade for prints) shoot I always tell my models to pretend we are going to play "dress up". You can also suggest a theme or style of clothing. With some girls I have done a "party dress" theme where they bring an array of different princess dresses. With guys I have gone with a color theme, a suit theme, or even a tie theme. Possibilities are endless. I understand that playing dress up might be easier for women, but it's easy to get creative with guys: Suggest to them using their images for Christmas presents, or their avatar on Myspace!

10. Tell their story. You want to shoot more than just a portrait. Take advantage of your opportunity and tell their story by documenting everything. Confining yourself to just a portrait is selling yourself short. Shoot every detail, close-up portraits, environmental portraits, landscapes, props and still life. You will be amazed as your story evolves; you never know how their story flows until you see everything laid out for you. One of the hardest things for me is to step back. I tend to shoot up close too much and it does not allow for any imagination by a viewer. A good environmental portrait evokes an emotion that is related by the viewer, it has props that are relevant to the subject and an environment that helps to tell the story.

March 24, 2008 5:14 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I people watch too but, unlike you, I think differently...I worry if they are going to mug me or beat me up for sheer fun. I guess that's the difference between a "romantic" and a hopeless paranoid LOL. Just being silly.

March 24, 2008 12:31 PM  

Blogger Photowalker said...

Another Binondo post.

One of these days, we're bound to bump in to each other.

March 25, 2008 12:01 AM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

hope you had a good easter.

from one people watcher to another, i totally dig this post. i hope there is more to come.

March 25, 2008 6:27 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks much for sharing with us these tips, Romy!

I consider myself always a student of photography and will always enjoying reading such materials. Ah, so much to learn and explore :)

March 25, 2008 7:49 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Not to worry, bertN. I guess, I 'd feel the same way if I have a penchant for people-wacthing after dark ... hehehe.

March 25, 2008 7:50 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And come to think of it, Photowalker, we might have already bumped into each other without realizing it. I'm alway gallivanting in the Binondo area.

March 25, 2008 7:51 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Photo Cache! I will try to keep posting more people pics :)

March 25, 2008 7:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it certainly is a relaxing diversion" -- i agree. people-watching at the airport takes my mind off things (it's my favourite spot aside from t. alonzo street in chinatown).
many times i've been asked for directions by foreigners visiting manila for the first time. after i tell them which bus to take, i often think, oh i hope they'll be okay, knowing that our public transportation system isn't so easy to comprehend!

March 25, 2008 8:21 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

Capturing that moment is quite a hit or miss :-). The last picture is like a scene where people freeze and there you see all their individual nuances.

I also reflect on the thought that we are all part and parcel of God. There is even that "radical" thought that God experiences through each of His creations---be it from the simplest amoeba to the most sophisticated galaxy that ever exists! But then just to make it more comprehensible, I go to thinking about how God experiences Life through ALL of US! This is why i also like to watch people/Nature and go places and imagine how they all feel and think and love...! I actually do not need to watch the soap operas on tv! ;-)

March 25, 2008 9:30 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

Another fine set of photographs!Lucky are those who have the time, patience and opportunity to watch people; and "smell the roses".


March 25, 2008 11:49 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Danii, the airport is another place to enjoy people-watching, especially during earlier times when you're able to sit around the arrival sections. Nowadays, you have to wait at a designated central waiting area.

March 26, 2008 6:17 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's quite an insightful thought.

I read once, Bernadette, that we are, in effect, God's hands and feet here on earth; hence, we are co-creators :)

March 26, 2008 6:20 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Mario,

Thanks! But I think we ought to take a break from the daily grind and just watch and appreciate things that are around us :)

March 26, 2008 6:21 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

can't help but comment once more...:-)

yes, Eric! My husband and I live our lives by that adage of being co-creators of God. It can be misinterpreted in so many ways but then if one believes in being a co-creator, then the meaning of being responsible to everything around makes sense. I often hear people say "but what can we do? we are nothing to the powers that be!" And i counter, your sincere prayers are enough! That is the power that we have but something about being "emasculated" has been imbedded in us by the "powers that be" :-) and this is the inner struggle each of us is going through. This is the enlightenment that is being described by all the mystics and spiritual teachers. Human drama can be transcended.

Thanks, Eric.

March 26, 2008 8:41 AM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

i enjoy people watching too especially when i'm waiting (too long) for some friends at a meeting place hehe.

so you went on another binondo food wok with ivan?

March 26, 2008 10:20 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

No, just ran into Ivan and his group at Plaza Cervantes on that day, Carlotta :)

Thank God for people-watching; otherwise, those tardy friends/relatives wouldn't hear the end of it from me ... hehehe.

March 27, 2008 6:20 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That is indeed an admirable attitude, Bernadette, for how can one be swayed by negative decisions in his endeavors if he firmly believes that he is God's ongoing partner.

Actually, I am one of those, before going out on a photo shoot, who acknowledges God's presence and asks for divine guidance :)

March 27, 2008 6:25 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

People watching, I do too. I found a very nice spot for this "hobby" (lol!) whenever I go to Baguio. It's a steak house along Session Road in Baguio City. I always occupy the table by the window to give me a good view of people coming and going.

Guys love to girl watch, of course. I remember in college, boys would sit by the lobby and RATE the girls passing by. Imagine how a girl would feel hearing them rate her at 2 o 3! Ay, naku, I'm not Bo Derek, but I wouldn't settle for less than 10. Hahaha.

March 27, 2008 7:23 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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