Capturing the people who fill the streets of Los Angeles, Tim shoots with a wide aperture to bring the characters in his images to the forefront. He’s conquering his own timidity by participating in the 100 Strangers project, a pursuit that has opened his eyes to the fact that many people are open to being photographed if you’re brave enough to approach them.
Read on for more of Tim’s thoughts on the 100 Strangers project, his take on when to ask someone for a photo or just shoot and a story about the fascinating meringue dancing stranger, Eddie.
LPO: Tell us a bit about your background.
TR: I grew up in the city of New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City, with a loving set of parents and two wonderful sisters. Being a very visual person and a movie lover, I enrolled in a film program at Messiah College in Grantham, PA and spent a year furthering my education at Temple University in Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for close to five years now and do freelance camerawork for various television shows, commercials, and movie promos. Weekends when I’m not working, you can find me, camera in hand, walking the streets of downtown LA.
LPO: You’re participating in the 100 Strangers project. How’s it going? What was it like the first time you walked up to someone for a shot?
TR: I became interested in street photography a little over two years ago – the majority of my work since then has been candid portraiture. However, what’s great about the 100 Strangers Project is that it has challenged me to really interact with the people I am photographing. There are so many fascinating people going about their daily routines in downtown Los Angeles and I’ve often wondered who these people are and where they are going. Participating in the 100 Strangers Project has afforded me an excuse to find out.
I think the project is going well so far. Every new face tells a unique story. The hardest part is actually finding the time to get out and shoot.
I have to say the first time I walked up to someone and asked for a photo was pretty nerve-wracking. When I finally mustered up the courage to approach him, he turned me down! However, it only gets easier the more you do it. Worst case scenario, they say no.
LPO: Besides people, what subjects are you most drawn to with your camera and why?
TR: When I’m not photographing people, I enjoy exploring Southern California for roadside Americana, specifically artifacts that feel lost in time – whether it be classic cars, neon signs or even rundown motels. There’s something really intriguing to me about how fast American culture changes and that relics from generations past still exist. However, those relics are vanishing quickly and I feel an urgency to grab them before they’re gone. I believe there’s evidence of this in my portraiture as well.
LPO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get a great shot?
TR: I would say the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome to get a great shot is my own timidity. In the past, I’ve blown dozens of opportunities simply because I was too scared to be noticed or ask permission for a photograph. You’d be surprised how many people are open to having their photo taken. Most of the time, all you have to do is ask.
LPO: Which aspects of your photos make them stand out as yours, elements that have developed over time to become your creative “eye”?
TR: That’s a really good question. I hesitate to say that I have a photographic “style”, but there are a few strategies I like to use when shooting on the street. For instance, I love to shoot my portraits with a wide open aperture, isolating my subjects within their environment. When shooting candids, I like to wait for the moment my subject makes eye contact with the camera before snapping the shutter. Also, I shoot only in natural light.
LPO: Tell us a story behind about one of the most interesting people you’ve had the privilege to photograph.
TR: I’ve bumped into a number of interesting people on the street and the stories of how we met are usually simple. However, that doesn’t mean those stories are not interesting or memorable.
One of my favorite interactions was with a gentleman named Eddie (above). It was a couple years ago during a parade traveling down Broadway Blvd. in downtown LA. He was dressed to the nines – sporting a fedora, suit, tie, and half a dozen rings, and dancing in the street, tipping his hat to passersby. I was fortunate enough to grab a few snaps.
As fate would have it, I ran into Eddie again about a month ago outside of Clifton’s Cafeteria (again on Broadway). We chatted for a few minutes about his meringue dancing and about Long Beach (where he lived). I asked him if I could take his photo and he told me “later”. I was a little bummed, figuring I’d missed an opportunity. However, about an hour after that, he spotted me across the street and waved me over. He posed for a few photos, tipped his hat, and went on his way. The story is simple, but the lines in his hands, the rings, his face… those are all very complex and tell their own story.
LPO: When photographing strangers in the street, how do you decide when to ask and when not to ask?
TR: One of the most common questions people ask me about photographing people in the street is when to ask and when not to ask. Usually, if a person looks friendly or nonviolent to me, I don’t have a problem approaching them. However, occasionally I’ll spot someone on the street that is so fascinating to me that I don’t want to give them a chance to turn me down. In those cases, I try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, set up my shot, and wait for the right candid moment.
LPO: Do you remember a certain moment when you fell in love with photography?
TR: I can’t pin down my love of photography to a single moment. However, I can remember rifling through the family photo albums almost daily as a kid. I can remember being up sketching until 3 in the morning, trying to improve my use of light and shadow (I considered art school for a time). I can remember composing shots with a bolex for a film production class in college, and I can remember buying my very first DSLR; spending nearly every evening after work at Venice Beach photographing people on the boardwalk. It was an evolution, really.
LPO: What are your main objectives as a photographer? What do you hope to accomplish or communicate through your body of work?
TR: My main objective as a photographer is to capture moments, people, and places that may seem ordinary at first glance, but ultimately transcend the mundane and possess their own unique history. I try to show a perspective of the city (Los Angeles) that is perhaps not quite as glamorous as it is portrayed in the media – often bleak and depressing, but frequently vibrant and alive. Hopefully, my photographs are communicating that.
LPO: What is the one question you wish I would have asked you and how would you answer it?
TR: I can’t think of anything that you haven’t already covered! Thanks for having me on the blog and for taking the time to look at my photos!
For more of Tim’s work, have a look at his Flickr stream.
For more interviews with photographers, have a look at the archives.