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A couple of years ago, I had a brief conversation with a fellow photographer, I can't remember how it started, no matter. My friend stated with a great deal of conviction that he never took portraits. My internal reaction at the time was ‘so what’, each to his/her own but it did seem odd to exclude the opportunity of taking photographs of an inexhaustible supply of subjects. 
 
These days, I too have narrowed my repertoire, just like my friend.  Asked if I take portraits, I would probably also say no, but I believe that there’s a difference.  I photograph people, the portrait is the outcome.  
Mostly, I approach complete strangers and ask if they would spare a few moments and allow me to take their photograph. Sometimes I get a passable image, almost invariably I experience a connection that is valuable, interesting and insightful. People from all over the world have subjected themselves to my camera with occupations that range from none to tattoo artists to shop assistants, influencers and buskers.

Sometimes I meet a person more than once, now that is a true bonus. Like the tall young man outside the Old Truman Brewery draped in blanket pins and ear-chains, wearing a head scarf and pink makeup. The next encounter was a few weeks later just a short distance from the first when I asked if I could photograph the character in huge black boots, red glasses, leather jacket and a slip. Recognition didn’t happen. On the third occasion, in a shop on Brick Lane, the penny dropped and now I had a name - Samy Chabani. Since then our paths have crossed many times and now I have a much fuller understanding of my subject who grew up in western France and came to the East End of London to start a new life.

Samy is very photogenic and has an innate talent for striking an interesting pose. It seemed a given that I should enter my photo in the ‘Portrait of Humanity’ competition organised by the British Journal of Photography.

Mid-February, I got the good news that my photo had reached the cut of 200 images to be included in a book. Seven weeks ago, more good news, my photograph of Samy had reached the top 50 images and would feature in exhibitions in USA, Australia, Croatia and Nigeria.

The launch party for ‘Portrait of Humanity’ was held last week and it was exciting to learn my image and the other forty nine were chosen from over 20,000 submissions from 108 countries. Samy came along to the launch and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the other successful photographers.

​The Guardian newspaper liked the portrait too, choosing it as one of their favourites third one down

Now, I’m not about to try and persuade my pal or anyone else to take up photographing strangers, but if you’re reading this, it’s very rewarding.
Bye for now
David
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