A Face in the Crowd

For this week’s photo challenge, try your hand at a different type of portrait.

My interest in photography first sparked when I was a teenager. I carried my precious camera with me everywhere, stopping for a snapshot each time I saw something even mildly interesting. Unfortunately, as a teenager I was also painfully shy and, despite my love of a well-shot portrait, was always too afraid to ask someone if I could take their picture.

When showing a friend my latest roll of film that I had developed, he asked me, “Erica, why do you always have pictures of people from behind?” In my fear of asking to take portraits, I realized I had resorted to including people in the picture — just not their faces.

Looking back over some of these photos recently, I developed a new appreciation for my approach as a young adult. These faceless portraits, as they were, captured a sense of being just one in the crowd. Instead of seeing the unique and defining characteristics of a person’s facial expressions, via an emotive gaze or mild smirk, they became anonymized, mysterious figures with stories impossible to guess.

Create an image that represents being “a face in the crowd.” Explore silhouettes, shadows, orientation, and other ways to mask your subject. As you hide the defining characteristics of your model, notice which traits continue to stand out. Without facial expression, can you tell how someone is feeling? Without color, does your impression of that person change? If portraits aren’t your thing, get even more creative with your use of shadows, reflections, animals, and patterns to represent a sense of anonymity.

Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden. Just as all of us can oscillate between conformity and individualism, allow your photo to do the same.

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  1. I feel like I have an appreciation for photography but I can completely see why you would feel like just another photographer. I think that the more you think about how you actually bring something to the table it will change your perspective compare to the way you see it now.


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