95 Degrees in the Shade

A bit of a people photography breakthrough for me yesterday... I passed this group of construction workers trying to catch some lunch time relief in the shade on a sweltering 100 degree day and it reminded me of my first job back in the late-70's working on a road crew digging up gas lines for a utility. I also worked many years in the remodeling industry and have spent more days than I can remember working during oppressive heat waves. Working up on roofs where your tools would get too hot to pick up if you left them in the sun. A 30 minute break in the shade for lunch always seemed like it lasted 5 minutes.

There is nothing tremendous about this image... the contrast from bright sun where I was standing is too strong in relation to the shade where the men are resting... but the breakthrough for me is that I knew I couldn't just get out of my car and stand in front of them to take a picture. I drove past them the first time and knew I wanted to make the picture so I turned around and went back to where they were. I got out with my camera and walked up to them and just asked... Anyone mind if I take a photo? ... Simple. And yet why is that so hard to do? None of them cared and they all just smiled. Except for the guy who was sleeping in the foreground. He never moved.

It is so important to me that images be taken with the acknowledgment of, and engagement with, the people in the image. I know that is not always possible and some of the greatest street photography in history was taken surreptitiously, but on a personal level I do not want to push the exploitation boundaries so my credo is for personal engagement. I want the subject of my photography to retain the control to say no. And yet it is so hard for me to engage with strangers, so I struggle with this. The desire to make images of people versus the difficulty in engaging and asking for the permission. I'm working on it, and that's why yesterday was important.
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