Photo Life is proud to partner with Seneca students to document their journey through the school curriculum. This week Samuel Dias shares about photographing strangers. This is the last Seneca post for this semester; the series will return in the fall.
Class: Photography I
Assignment: 25 Strangers
Student: Samuel Dias
Professor: Ray Steinke
Assignment guidelines: This assignment entailed picking a theme and approaching people in an effort to get 25 portraits of strangers in your chosen theme.
New school, new city, new country and a new language. On top of all that, I found it hard to go back to being a student again after working full-time. Easy in the first weeks, of course, but as the assignments started to come, it got harder. When Ray’s first big assignment came out (25 strangers), it was scary. It was scary in a sense that I would have to deal with strangers. For this assignment, we had to pick a theme and photograph 25 complete strangers that fit our theme. I picked “bearded people.” I tried other themes before, but pretty much everyone I asked to photograph said no, so I decided to change the theme to something “funny” that people were comfortable with, and then I came up with the idea of beards.
I didn’t know how people in Canada would react if I stopped them in the middle of the street, holding a camera and asking to take a picture of them. Because of that I spent some time just watching people and trying to understand how they behave. I figured out a plan of how to approach people. I knew English, but I wasn’t used to speaking in English all the time, and I was really shy. My approach was to talk as little as possible but to say something funny about the project so it would break the ice right away. That’s how I got to photograph complete strangers.
I really enjoyed doing it, because I was able to see how Canadians behave in such situations, and I realized that is not that hard to ask people to pose for you when you don’t know them. I got to practice English with people I didn’t feel comfortable talking to. I think that this type of assignment (dealing with strangers) should be in every course, especially for international students, so they get used to their new place. It helped me a lot in the first semester, and I think that in the future I may even continue taking pictures of strangers in the street, coming up with a new theme every year.
The Seneca @ York Independent Digital Photography Program is a two-year diploma course that prepares students for a freelance career and provides them with the necessary skill set to work in a multidisciplinary studio.