Taking Pictures of Strangers: Part I

Ransom Riggs

When most people go on vacation, they take pictures of their friends and family. Beautiful vistas. Old buildings. I like all that stuff as much as the next guy, but for some reason when I get out my camera, I take pictures of strangers. Strangers don't pose. They do funny things without realizing they're being watched. And when you get the pictures back, they're never around to complain about how they look.

During a semester abroad in Ireland, I began spending free afternoons on the streets, camera in hand, taking pictures of people I didn't know. (I tried to be as discreet as possible, eventually developing a from-the-hip technique where I could shoot without looking through the viewfinder; since I was never beaten or chased, I have to assume it worked.) Eventually I realized that there was a whole movement devoted to doing what I was doing, called street photography, and that I probably wasn't some voyeuristic maniac after all (or at least, not the socially unacceptable kind). Below: kid in a piazza, Florence.

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Since then, I've stopped hitting the streets with my camera (L.A. isn't a walking town, they keep telling me) but have fallen in love with the great street photographers: Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, Elliot Erwitt, and many more. In this series of blogs, I want to post and talk about my favorites, but I figured the best way to start was to post some of my own first (may as well put 'em to use; they're just moldering away in my Flickr account), which also saves me the embarrassment of trying to follow Arbus or Winogrand! So here goes. (To see larger versions of these, by the way, just click on them.)

Digg it!

On the street outside Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland:

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Bemused and be-wigged ladies outside a club in Dublin. (I didn't stick around long enough to find out whether the bouncer let them in or not.)

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A stolen kiss, Dublin.

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Dogs for sale: one morning I found an impromptu pet market going on outside my hotel room in Seville, Spain. (Don't worry, dude. Those dogs aren't going anywhere.)

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French tourists eating a picnic lunch near Mont St. Michel. I like how daintily the guy facing camera is holding that French fry.

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A newspaper hawker on O'Connell Street, Dublin.

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I noticed this tired old shopkeeper across the street in Granada, Spain:

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This Irish kid said he hadn't caught anything all day.

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This silverback at the San Diego Zoo was anything but camera-shy:

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A tourist in Paris stares me down.

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Kids waiting to get into a club in Dublin.

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