life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

April 10, 2022 // Madison

Last Sunday I headed to my usual spots with my Nikon F2 loaded with APX400 and my Olympus Stylus loaded with the same roll of Kodak Ultramax400 I took to Chicago the day before, and now that the weather is warming up the styles become more apparent.

State St is my lucky spot for street photography, I’m starting to know it and that really helps with the confidence part. In Chicago it was a different game, I don’t know the city and its streets at all, so it felt very intimidating, almost like starting from scratch, which is also why I came back with so few images. 

However, as I’m growing more comfortable asking people for their portraits, I realise that I was doing the easy thing, asking people who either looked like me, or people who felt familiar and approachable to take their portrait. So these past couple of weeks I’ve made the effort to expand who I chose as subjects. This applies mostly to race and gender. I recently started asking more men and more people of color, especially black, to take their portraits. The first step was hard, I had to push through even more shyness, breaking barriers is scary. The first time I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, as a white woman, but I had such a strong drive, there were all these wonderful people, wonderful faces, wonderful styles I wanted to capture and I was refraining from, so I asked for permission, permission was granted, and tearing down that wall has been incredibly satisfying and rewarding. 

That being said, every week that I go to State Street I see the same homeless man with his dog, always on the same corner. For weeks I avoided that corner because turning my camera to him made me uncomfortable, I wasn’t sure about the ethics of it. So this week I confronted this invisible barrier: I went to talk to him, I gave him all the spare cash I could find in the bottom of my bag (it was so little I was embarrassed), I petted his very very sweet dog, and I asked him if he wanted me to take his portrait. I think he was really happy about this. And the truth is that it becomes such a habit for everyone to walk by homeless people, pretending we don’t see, that paying attention to him, turning my camera made him feel like a person. I still don’t know the ethics of this, but I don’t believe looking away and avoiding to photograph is the way, instead I want to confront the discomfort and address it, so you’ll keep seeing me around asking more people for their portrait, because I’ve got more barrier breaking to do. 

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