Shooting Beyond Language Barriers

June 11, 2015
2132359-100-11528

Stately man from Milan, Italy with contagious smile

I have traveled to many beautiful and exotic places to capture the perfect photo for my clients. Pristine Caribbean beaches, the Tuscan countryside, and the shadow of Mount Fuji have all been amazing and powerful backdrops for my shoots. But, the work doesn’t stop once I’ve found the right location, it’s only just begun, especially when that location is in a foreign country. I’m not always familiar enough with the language or the culture to communicate and direct the local talent in a manner that produces the results I want in my final photo.

Carefree life in Mexico

The true art of photography, whether it is for advertising or fine art, is the intimate relationship between the photographer and the subject. I try to develop an authentic personal connection with my talent so that I can draw out the desired emotion for the shoot; sometimes this is very organic and other times it is intricately directed. This is very easy to establish when I am shooting in my own back yard, but in a foreign country I find that I can be shooting across cultural and language barriers that make it quite difficult to evoke the emotion I need from my subject.

An elderly woman at her windowsill reminisces  of her younger years.

An elderly woman at her windowsill reminisces of her younger years. Poggibonsi Italy

An interpreter often helps me negotiate these cumbersome cultural and language barriers, but it can be just as difficult if the interpreter and I do not have a good rapport. That is why I spend ample time with the interpreter before the shoot, building a strong connection and explaining my work process, and striving for the interpreter to literally be an extension of me so that she can interpret my needs almost instantaneously. When I am shooting, it is often the subtle nuances that make the shot. A particular glint in someone’s eye, or the way their head is lightly tilted can create amazing drama in a photo. Now that my interpreter understands my objectives, she can quickly communicate with the talent to elicit the emotional components that ring true for the shot. Of course, at times, I interject my own version of communicating with gestures and sign language which creates a lot of laughter. And laughter, I have found, is the universal language that breaks the ice and makes us feel at ease. It’s a win-win; talent performs better, and I get a better photo.

Abismos De Pasion (Wuthering Heights) IV

Seceret Garden – Mexico

Giovanni fishes on the black rocky beach of Salerno Italy.

A Father-Son Chef team enjoy eachother's company while making pasta with Proscuitto in a beautiful Italian kitchen.

A Father-Son Chef team from Siena Italy enjoy each other’s company while making pasta with Proscuitto

A fisherman surrounded by that day's catch in the famous port town in Sorrento Italy

A fisherman surrounded by that day’s catch in the famous port town in Sorrento Italy

An eldery Italian farmer smiles while standing on his farmland

Tuscan farmer smiles while standing on his farmland near Siena Italy

A young Japanese boy with a baseball cap on smiles for the camera

A young Japanese boy with a American baseball cap on smiles for the camera

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