07
Apr

Santa on the Street

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the slide show above.

I got a call last October from my friend, Tyler, asking me if I would photograph a Christmas party for street youth in Seattle’s U-District.  It’s an annual party, and they usually have a volunteer take candid snapshots that they can give to the youth who attend.  After talking for a little while, we both decided that it would be fun to set up a studio in a corner where anyone who was interested could get their portrait taken.

After I finished setting up, Tyler made an announcement about the studio letting people know that it was available.  Everyone in the room turned to look at me.  I smiled and waved, and then everyone turned back around and continued talking and opening presents.  I waited for about 10 minutes, and still nobody came over.  There were a lot of glances toward the studio, but that was it.  I started walking around the room, and asking if people wanted to have their picture taken.
“No way man.  I don’t want my picture taken.”

I knew it would just take one person to get things rolling, and moments later, that person arrived.  Actually, he was a rabbit…  Although I was excited about photographing a giant rabbit, I could tell that Santa was feeling uneasy and territorial.  He took his white gloves off, one finger at a time, and threw them on the ground.  ”This is my holiday, Rabbit!” He screamed across the room.

That’s a story for another day, though.

I was able to convince the rabbit to let me photograph him, and shortly after, people began lining up to join in.  I took quite a bit of time with the lighting setup for this, and set the lights in a way that would allow for some movement and flexibility with each subject.  I made an x on the ground, and asked each person to stand there. But beyond that, I didn’t control their movements.  I wanted to let each person be themselves, and capture their personalities.  I know that I am not the first person to photograph street youth.  But often I feel that a subject like this is an easy way to create a dramatic story without any creativity.  Street youth encounter struggles that many of us will never experience, some of them dress a little different, but that alone doesn’t make a great picture. What I loved about how these pictures turned out, was the laughter and humor that came through.  I don’t think the pictures would have the same feel if I had taken as much control as I would have with a different subject.  I might have asked Santa to look serious, though…Couldn’t resist that one!

What do you think about the slide show?  Comments please.  I have been posting pictures individually, but it seemed like there were too many for that this time.  I’d love to hear what you think.