“It’s the best way to make friends,” says Portuguese street photographer Miguel Raimundo when asked if he’s made lifelong acquaintances by photographing strangers. Asking permission for photos goes a long way in getting a smile back. But there is always a strange person who feels threatened and may even become violent. Miguel shrugs with a smile and continues on his merry way.
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I’m afraid to ask strangers for portraits when I’m taking pictures alone. But I don’t lack self-confidence when I’m with a photo walk group. It’s almost as if I felt that I wouldn’t be rejected if a stranger saw me alongside a group of photographers. Of course, experience has proven me wrong on this, but that doesn’t change my approach. It’s not like I photograph people from a distance in secret when I go out alone for photos. I tend to capture more street life in general, rather than single people.
Somehow, when I’m with other photographers on the street, I think it’s easier to get rejected when asking for a photo. It probably means that the others would also be rejected, and then it wasn’t my approach that was the problem; maybe it was just a person who didn’t want a picture anyway. Seeing Miguel’s impressive images, I’m tempted to change that. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about rejection so much and focus on getting a fantastic picture of those who agree. Dubai is, after all, a place with many interesting and friendly faces.
The essential photo equipment used by Miguel Raimundo
Miguel told us:
The Phoblographer: Hi Miguel. Tell us about yourself and how you came to photography.
Miguel Raimundo: Good morning! My name is Miguel Raimundo; I am a 24 year old hobbyist analog photographer based in Lisbon, Portugal. Like some of you reading this, I’ve had the pleasure of inheriting photographic equipment… It’s almost better than finding gold in your attic – yes, I found a 501c in my attic …unused but not sealed. “If your dad has it, you most likely will,” or something like that. You get the picture – pun intended.
The process. A breeze. Be concise, polite, smiling and non-intrusive: “Hey! I’m doing a project of portraits of people in XXXX (city), and I would like yours”. Rest for about 2 seconds for their facial reaction and before they say anything to you, just add: “only if you want!” if you don’t, that’s fine, I’m just going” with a big smile and an easy posture.
The Phoblographer: Approaching strangers for a photo is not a new trend, but when did you start doing it? Tell us about your very first experience and the photography you took from it.
Miguel Raimundo: The first… to be honest, I’ve always been an outgoing person. Playing and talking with people on the street has always been something I loved to do. One of those days in 2017 I just had the camera in my hand at the right place at the right time and picked up this one:
Simple and fast. I just asked for a photo, I had two minutes of chatting and I left thinking to myself: “I could do this more often”… And then it started.
The Phoblographer: How do you approach foreigners these days? Do you just ask them when you have your 501C with you, or do you also show them some of your previously taken photos? What does the process look like?
Miguel Raimundo: The process. A breeze. Be concise, polite, smiling and non-intrusive: “Hey! I’m doing a project of portraits of people in XXXX (city), and I would like yours”. Rest for about 2 seconds for their facial reaction and before they say anything to you, just add: “only if you want!” if you don’t, that’s fine, I’m just going” with a big smile and an easy posture. This will give you a 90% acceptance rate. Reverse psychology, I guess. The Hassy can help a bit. Some agree; some don’t. That’s life.
The Phoblographer: Of course, there could be a lot of rejection with this type of approach. Do you ignore this and move on, or do you give each rejection a second try to try and convince them?
Miguel Raimundo: Don’t ask me anymore. Be concise. After the “only if you want to”, if they don’t seem to like your idea, just say “no worries!” thank you” and leave. The best portrait of the day might pass while you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. Once again, that’s life
The Phoblographer: Were there any unpleasant incidents while doing this? Incidents where strangers became offensive?
Miguel Raimundo: You mean drunk people? No. I had an old guy who called me like, “Picture? go to work, damn artist”. It was the height of inconvenience. Again, be respectful and no one will bother you.
The Phoblographer: Which photographs were the most memorable (not just in terms of the results, but also the experience behind it)?
Miguel Raimundo: I can tell you two that came to mind. The first was at the Coimbra bus station in 2019. I was going to take a bus to my hometown, and there was this tired young nun sitting on a bench inside the station. We exchanged a little eye contact, then she just lowered her head and (still having my gun at the ready – the Hassy) I just fired:
I haven’t spoken with her. It remained a mystery.
The other was maybe in 2018 when I met a cool old Brazilian dude with some great stories. I met him in Viseu. He was traveling in Europe that year and he ended up staying a little longer in Viseu than he had planned. Zé dos Rios was his artistic name. Look it up on the web, and you’ll find something. He passed away a few months ago.
One of the only photos where I liked the smile.
The Phoblographer: Do the subjects give their coordinates and ask for the images? Did you make any friendships along the way doing this?
Miguel Raimundo: Every time I photograph someone (with a camera), I give them my Instagram. I think it’s a bit elusive if you ask for their Instagram or any other social media you want to use. Give them yours and let them message you. Friends? Dude, this is the best way to make friends. I’ve met exes… that’s saying something.
The Phoblographer: One question you might have been asked is, why are you shooting them on film and not digital? How do you respond to that?
Miguel Raimundo: Why is someone making a movie? Why do you have to pay for a nice big vinyl instead of just using Spotify? I use Spotify and listen to vinyl. The same applies to photography: if I have to do more professional photography, I always use digital, but if I just want to have fun, film is the answer, analog is the answer.
The Phoblographer: Are there any photos you’ve honestly taken of strangers without their knowledge? Which are your favorites among these?
Miguel Raimundo: A complete and giant “Yes”. I tried some street photography, and I think some turned out way cooler than I expected. I think it’s easier to do this while traveling, where you know no one knows you, and you’ll be out of there in a week max. But doing this in your hometown (even if it’s a big city) might not be as comfortable (funny to read those words coming from someone asking strangers for portraits). And hey, the Hassy isn’t a Leica… it’s a noisy camera.
The Phoblographer: In which city or country would you say you had the best time taking portraits of passers-by? Why do you consider this the best?
Miguel Raimundo: My beautiful sunny Portugal. Anywhere you can take pictures is the best place to take pictures. Get out, shoot.
All images are by Miguel Raimundo. Used with permission. Take a look at her Instagram page to see more of her street portraits. Also be sure to submit your own photos to figure.