Quickly and demurely, I approach the person I want to photograph, usurping social decorum which clouds the images I want to make. I witness someone unmasked, and unmask them again.
I see a man, probably a father, sitting on a bench; a strangely solitary figure in a gathering of multiples. He’s hunched, eyes closed, biting into a popsicle. His right hand delicately drapes across his knee. My approach immediately breaks the spell of his sugary reverie. I invite myself into his singular world, but instead of responding in kind, he tells me he’s not a twin. I reply by asking to take his picture. With as few words a possible, and much gesticulation, we recreate what I saw a few moments ago. I want to get back to place with him, where I witnessed his existence with that cherry popsicle.
For me, portraiture is choreographing a pose that bears witness to the moment before, or the moment before that. An awkward vulnerability arises in asking a person to perform an act that was once natural but is now stagecraft. Suddenly the unconscious movement that lured me in, transforms into a self-conscious gesture before the camera.
Both states of consciousness reveal what’s behind the physicality of the sitter, but self-consciousness is directly related to a camera being present. I use the sitter’s self-centered state as a way to simultaneously recognise my photographic disruption and erase it. After all, self-consciousness narrows the ability to think much beyond the personal, and in that state the sitter is once again is cast back to a place that holds little room to recognise my presence. The mask that came about with my approach cracks, and my presences as a photographer is both recognised and erased. In this moment I am able to join them.