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.
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 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.